From Wikipedia: 'An explanandum is a sentence describing a phenomenon that is to be explained, and the explanans are the sentences adduced as explanations of that phenomenon. For example, one person may pose an explanandum by asking "Why is there smoke?", and another may provide an explanans by responding "Because there is a fire". In this example, "smoke" is the explanandum, and "fire" is the explanans.'

I recall somewhere in the Platonic dialogues that Socrates says that as a matter of principle an explanans must be of a higher order than what it seeks to explain. But I'm very hazy on the details. Does anyone recall the passage I might be referring to?


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ChatGPT helped out:

'Socrates makes a similar argument in the Platonic dialogue "Phaedo."

In the dialogue, Socrates argues that knowledge requires a method of inquiry that moves from the known to the unknown. He suggests that in order to explain a particular phenomenon, one must have knowledge of a more general principle or cause that underlies it. Socrates refers to this more general principle as the "cause" or "explanans," and the particular phenomenon as the "effect" or "explanandum."

Socrates asserts that the explanans must be of a higher order than the explanandum, because it is the more general principle that explains why the particular phenomenon occurs. He uses the example of how we explain why a lyre produces sound. Socrates argues that the explanans for why a lyre produces sound is not simply that the lyre is made of wood and strings, but rather that it is in the nature of harmony and discord to produce sound. Thus, the explanans (the nature of harmony and discord) is of a higher order than the explanandum (the sound produced by the lyre).

This idea that the explanans must be of a higher order than the explanandum is sometimes referred to as the "Principle of Proportionate Causality" or the "Principle of Adequacy." It is a fundamental principle of many philosophical and scientific theories of explanation.'


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