The microscopic state counting of the extremal Reissner-Nordström black hole performed by Andrew Strominger and Cumrun Vafa in 1996 has proven to be a central result in string theory. Here, with a philosophical readership in mind, the argument is presented in its contemporary context and its rather complex conceptual structure is analysed. In particular, we will identify the various inter-theoretic relations, such as duality and linkage relations, on which it depends. We further aim to make clear why the argument was immediately recognised as a successful accounting for the entropy of this black hole and how it engendered subsequent work that intended to strengthen the string theoretic analysis of black holes. Its relation to the formulation of the AdS/CFT conjecture will be briefly discussed, and the familiar reinterpretation of the entropy calculation in the context of the AdS/CFT correspondence is given. Finally, we discuss the heuristic role that Strominger and Vafa's microscopic account of black hole entropy played for the black hole information paradox. A companion paper analyses the ontology of the Strominger-Vafa black hole states, the question of emergence of the black hole from a collection of D-branes, and the role of the correspondence principle in the context of string theory black holes.