Prof. Meinhard Kuhlmann (Univ. Mainz) - Explanation-Prediction (A)Symmetry in Complex Systems

Datum / Uhrzeit:
20.06.17   /  18:30 - 20:00

Institut für Theoretische Philosophie

24.53.01 Raum 81


Im Rahmen des Forschungsseminars laden wir recht herzlich ein zum Vortrag:

Prof. Meinhard Kuhlmann (Univ. Mainz) - Explanation-Prediction (A)Symmetry in Complex Systems



According to Hempel the structure of explanations and predictions is symmetrical: An explanation of a past event shows why it was to be expected. However, Hempel’s symmetry thesis seems to be undermined by examples such as evolutionary biology on the one hand and common cause type forecasts on the other hand (e.g. the notorious barometer): one can have explanations that do not yield corresponding predictions and predictions that would not be accepted as explanations for the respective events in retrospect. Complex systems approaches seem to yield further instances of this asymmetry, since they appear to rate much better concerning their explanatory than their predictive power. Nevertheless, I will argue that the asymmetry is not as pronounced as it first seems, in particular if one relaxes Hempel’s unnecessarily narrow formulation. I contend that the main predictive power of complex systems theories consists in an often-overlooked type of prediction, namely what I call “structural predictions”. These are predictions about the role of structural background conditions, usable e.g. for policy advice.



Meinard Kuhlmann studied phisics und philosophy at the Universities of Bochum, Munich, St. Andrews (Scottland) and Cologne. He received his PhD in Philosophy and habilitated at the University of Bremen.

Several fellowships led him to the Universities of Chicago, Irvine, Oxford, Pittsburgh and London. After substitiution of chairs at the Universities of Hannover, Jena and Bielefeld he substitutes since 2014 the chair of Philosophy of Science at the University of Mainz. His main research areas are philosophy of science, natural philosophy and analitical ontology;  here in particular the ontology of physical theories, theories of explanation as well as the philosophy of complex systems.


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