Master of Arts (MA)


Philosophy and Religious Studies

Document Type



This thesis presents three views of anomaly in explanation: the linguistic view, the perceptual view, and the mechanistic view. The linguistic view is based on the notion that an anomaly is an instance of logical inconsistency. According to the perceptual view, an anomaly is a perceptual event which consists of a phenomenon deviating from a paradigmatic set of expectations. Lastly, the mechanistic view defines anomaly as a phenomenon which reveals the predictive failure of a model of the mechanism underlying the phenomenon to be explained. Each view is evaluated in terms of its heuristic utility, in two ways: first, according to how well the view allows one to detect that there is an anomaly in explanation; and second, according to the resources it provides for exploring different kinds of anomaly. Three criteria are used to evaluate the heuristic utility of each view for anomaly detection: (1) Does the view allow one to distinguish between anomalies in explanation and non-explanatory anomalies? (2) Are there explanatory contexts in which a view cannot determine if there is an anomaly in explanation? (3) Given a view, what are the conditions of possibility for the appearance of an anomaly in explanation? The criteria for evaluating the heuristic utility of a view for engaging the question of which kind of anomaly there is are the following: (1) How well does the view allow one to localize, for heuristic purposes, an anomaly according to its kind? (2) What resources does the view provide for exploring theoretical anomalies? (3) For exploring phenomenal anomalies? (4) For exploring factual anomalies? The thesis argues that, as it stands, the mechanistic view is heuristically the most useful for anomaly detection and exploration. It also provides some suggestions as to how the linguistic view and perceptual views could be strengthened.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Jon Cogburn