Relationships of counterfactual dependence have played a major role in recent debates of explanation and understanding in the philosophy of science. Usually, counterfactual dependencies have been viewed as the explanantia of explanation, i.e., the things providing explanation and understanding. Sometimes, however, counterfactual dependencies are themselves the targets of explanations in science. These kinds of explanations are the focus of this paper. I argue that “micro-level model explanations” explain the particular form of the empirical regularity underlying a counterfactual dependency by representing it as a physical necessity on the basis of postulated microscopic entities. By doing so, micro-level models rule out possible forms the regularity (and the associated counterfactual) could have taken. Micro-model explanations, in other words, constrain empirical regularities and their associated counterfactual dependencies. I introduce and illustrate micro-level model explanations in detail, contrast them to other accounts of explanation, and consider potential problems.
- Counterfactual dependence