This week is the 2014 edition of the Philosophy of Science Association conference. A great program has been assembled here.
Due to an oversight on my part, a conflict developed, and I had to request that the program chair move the time for my talk. The talk will now be presented on Friday Nov. 7th in the 4-6pm session on Explanation. I am grateful to the program chair for accommodating this last minute request.
Title: Newton, Laplace and Salmon on Explaining the Tides
Abstract: Salmon cites Newton's explanation of the tides in support of a causal account of scientific explanation. In this paper I reconsider the details of how Newton and his successors actually succeeded in explaining several key features of the tides. It turns out that these explanations depend on elements that are not easily interpreted in causal terms. I use the explanations offered after Newton to indicate two different ways that non-causal factors can be significant for scientific explanation. In Newton's equilibrium explanation, only a few special features of the tides can be explained. A later explanation deploys a kind of harmonic analysis to provide an informative classification of the tides at different locations. I consider the options for making sense of these explanations.