The Philosophy of Biology Lab that I co-run with Jim Griesemer here at UC Davis is re-reading Wesley Salmons' Scientific Explanation and the Causal Structure of the World. I am reminded how, when doing such re-readings, one can find little nuggets of wisdom that may have been overlooked on the first read. Even in the Preface.
Although much modern work on scientific explanation has been rather formal and technical -- often treating various quasi-formal 'models' in great detail -- I shall dwell extensively on less formal considerations. There are two reasons for this emphasis. In the first place, I have been convinced for some time that many recent philosophical discussions of scientific explanation suffer from a lack of what Rudolf Carnap called "clarification of the explicandum." As Carnap has vividly shown, precise philosophical explications of important concepts can egregiously miss the mark if we do not have a sound prior informal grasp of the concept we are endeavoring to explicate.
It's my impression that this is a lesson that many have failed to learn; all too often I see formalism with little attempt to explain what the formalism is intended to represent (and not just in philosophy of science).
More from Salmon's Preface:
In the second place, I have earnestly attempted to make the discussion accessible to a wide group of readers -- philosophers, scientists, and other individuals who have serious interests in science or philosophy. Every effort has been made to illustrate the philosophical points with examples that have either historical or contemporary significance from a wide range of scientific disciplines. At the same time, a number of examples have deliberately been drawn from such sources as Scientific American and Science, for I hope this book will be intelligible to those who find such literature rewarding. No particular specialized knowledge of any scientific discipline is presupposed. In addition, I have tried to supply enough philosophical background to obviate any need for prior familiarity with the philosophical literature on scientific explanation. It is my special hope that some parts of this book -- for example, the discussion of causality -- will be useful to philosophers who work in areas outside of philosophy of science.
Writing content that might be relevant to non-philosophers, and in a style that they might understand? Writing conent that might be relevant to philosophers in other areas, and in a style that they might understand? Such things are not unheard of today, but are all too rare, in my opinion.
Words of wisdom from a Preface.