In this paper we will show that Hempel's covering law model can't deal very well with explanations that are based on incomplete knowledge. In particular the symmetry thesis, which is an important aspect of the covering law model, turns out to be problematic for these explanations. We will discuss an example of an electric circuit, which clearly indicates that the symmetry of explanation and prediction does not always hold. It will be argued that an alternative logic for causal explanation is needed. And we will investigate to what extent non-monotonic epistemic logic can provide such an alternative logical framework. Finally we will show that our non-monotonic logical analysis of explanation is not only suitable for simple cases such as the electric circuit, but that it also sheds new light on more controversial causal explanations such as Milton Friedman's explanation of the business cycle.

Friedman, Hempel, economic theory, reasoning
Erasmus School of Economics

Janssen, M.C.W, & Tan, Y-H. (1991). Why Friedman's Non-monotonic Reasoning Defies Hempel's Covering Law Model. Synthese, 255–284. Retrieved from