set of statements constructed to describe a set of facts
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An explanation is a set of statements usually constructed to describe a set of facts that clarifies the causes, context, and consequences of those facts. This description may establish rules or laws, and may clarify the existing rules or laws in relation to any objects, or phenomena examined.

To ask me to explain, is to say, "Roses! Boil them, or we won't have them!" My tales may not be roses, but I will not boil them. ~ George MacDonald


  • Jolie hypothèse elle explique tant de choses.
    • A pretty hypothesis which explains many things.
    • Quoted by Mr. Asquith, Speech in Parliament, March 29, 1917, as "a saying of a witty Frenchman"; reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 245.
  • The overwhelming majority of theories are rejected because they contain bad explanations, not because they fail experimental tests.
  • A prediction, or any assertion, that cannot be defended might still be true, but an explanation that cannot be defended is not an explanation.

  • Dionysus: He who believes needs no explanation.
    Pentheus: What's the worth in believing worthless things?
    Dionysus: Much worth, but not worth telling you, it seems.
  • But as our explanation will be more brief than one broken in upon by words of wonder, regret, and affection, we will proceed to it ; holding that explanation, like advice, should be of all convenient shortness.
  •  "But surely you would explain your idea to one who asked you?"
    I say again, if I cannot draw a horse, I will not write THIS IS A HORSE under what I foolishly meant for one. Any key to a work of imagination would be nearly, if not quite, as absurd. The tale is there, not to hide, but to show: if it show nothing at your window, do not open your door to it; leave it out in the cold. To ask me to explain, is to say, "Roses! Boil them, or we won't have them!" My tales may not be roses, but I will not boil them.
    So long as I think my dog can bark, I will not sit up to bark for him.
  • Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.
    • H. L. Mencken, "The Divine Afflatus" in New York Evening Mail (16 November 1917); later published in Prejudices: Second Series (1920) and A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949).
  • There probably is a God. Many things are easier to explain if there is than if there isn't.
    • John Von Neumann, as quoted in John Von Neumann : The Scientific Genius Who Pioneered the Modern Computer , Game Theory, Nuclear Deterrence and Much More (1992) by Norman Macrae, p. 379.
  • Tao mystics never talk about God, reincarnation, heaven, hell. No, they don't talk about these things. These are all creations of human mind: explanations for something which can never be explained, explanations for the mystery. In fact, all explanations are against God because explanation de-mystifies existence. Existence is a mystery, and one should accept it as a mystery and not pretend to have any explanation. No, explanation is not needed – only exclamation, a wondering heart, awakened, surprised, feeling the mystery of life each moment. Then, and only then, you know what truth is. And truth liberates.
  • Denn wenn sich Jemand versteckt erklärt, so ist Nichts unhöflicher als eine neue Frage.
    • For when any one explains himself guardedly, nothing is more uncivil than to put a new question.
    • Jean Paul Richter, Hesperus, II; reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 245.
  • Explanations are clear but since no one to whom a thing is explained can connect the explanations with what is really clear, therefore clear explanations are not clear.
  • Paradoxes explain everything. Since they do, they cannot be explained.
    • Gene Wolfe, The Book of the Short Sun, Volume 1: On Blue's Waters (1999), Ch. 9.

See also

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