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Suppose I claim that things fall to the ground due to a force known as gravity. Is that explanation satisfactory?

Or if I propose that molecules collided randomly, leading to the formation of the first living proto-cell. Does that statement adequately explain the origin of life?

Or if I suggest that all spiritual and mystical experiences throughout history are attributable to lies, hallucinations, exaggerations, or tricks of neurochemical reactions in the brain. Have I effectively explained all the diversity of spiritual and mystical experiences of humanity?

How much detail must we provide to consider a phenomenon sufficiently "explained"?

And what if the same phenomenon can be explained in multiple ways? Can a phenomenon be sufficiently "explained" by two mutually contradictory "explanations"?


For those interested in a more restricted discussion on how two different fields come up with explanations for things, see Are there cases where psychology has offered successful scientific explanations for phenomena that neuroscience hasn't?

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    Sufficiently explained for what purpose? Sufficiency assumes a purpose. You would have to state the purpose in order to assess sufficiency. Please edit to clarify.
    – Lowri
    Commented Apr 13 at 17:22
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    @Mark the whole truth is unavailable, the best we can do is approximate models, e.g. gravity/general relativity etc. From the perspective of science, nothing is ever "sufficiently" explained - all theory is subject to revision. Commented Apr 13 at 17:31
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    Newton also believed in the philosopher's stone and the elixir of life.
    – JonathanZ
    Commented Apr 13 at 20:07
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    What does it mean for this question to be "answered"? Suppose i claim that an explanation that enlightens the listener is sufficient. Is that answer satisfactory? Commented Apr 13 at 22:16
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    When the asker runs out of 'buts'.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Apr 14 at 11:59

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There are infinite truths that can be said about a phenomenon. (I am using "truth" in the sense you have used it in your clarifying comments. In actuality, we can at best express propositions that are consistent with the evidence.)

Whether one truth is "sufficient" as an "explanation" depends on the purpose to which one is attempting to deploy that truth.

One truth might be: a person who exhibits trait A and experiences negative feelings X and Y, if exposed to behavioral treatment T, will experience less of the negative feelings X and Y. That might be useful and sufficient for someone who is attempting to provide therapy to a person.

Another truth might be: neurological structure S and brain chemistry C is associated with negative feelings X and Y. That might be useful and sufficient for someone who is attempting to develop a pharmaceutical intervention.

Neither of these would be sufficient for someone who is trying to understand the genetic and developmental contributions to the phenomenon. For that person, other truths would need to be discovered.

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Explanation of things, should be : to find the meaning of, but in our current times - unfortunately - is nothing more than a consensus among specialists.

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  • Few agreed with you, it seems.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Apr 19 at 12:55
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What does it mean for something to be "explained"?

Consider my earlier comment "What does it mean for this question to be 'answered'?"

Only you can determine when your question has been answered to your satisfaction, therefore only the person receiving an explanation can determine when a subject has been adequately explained.

Consider that the scope and detail of any explanation will vary based on the complexity of the phenomenon being described, as well as the relative intellect and prior knowledge of the recipient. Because assessing acceptability of an explanation is subjective,there isn't a single answer applicable to any and all explanations.

Is that explanation sufficient, and did I answer your question? ;)

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    Apparently, it wasn't.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Apr 19 at 12:55
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    @ScottRowe, those who fancy themselves as philosophers don't appreciate brevity, levity, or common sense. Commented Apr 19 at 14:28

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