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Levels of Reasons Why and Answers to Why Questions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


According to Skow, correct answers to why questions cite only causes or grounds, but not nonaccidental regularities. Accounts that cite nonaccidental regularities typically confuse second-level reasons with first-level reasons. Only causes and grounds are first-level reasons why. Nonaccidental regularities are second-level reasons why. I first show that Skow’s arguments for the accusation of confusion depend on the independent thesis that only citations of first-level reasons why are (parts of) answers to why questions. Then I argue that this thesis is false. Consequently, the claim that correct answers to why questions cite only causes or grounds is refuted as well.

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I thank Raphael van Riel for discussing parts of this paper with me, as well as two anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticisms and suggestions. Support for this research by the Volkswagen Foundation for the project “A Study in Explanatory Power” and by the OeAD for an Ernst Mach Scholarship is gratefully acknowledged.


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