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  1. beyond the divide between indigenous and academic knowledge: Causal and mechanistic explanations in a Brazilian fishing community.Charbel N. El-Hani, Luana Poliseli & David Ludwig - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 1 (91):296–306.
    Transdisciplinary research challenges the divide between Indigenous and academic knowledge by bringing together epistemic resources of heterogeneous stakeholders. The aim of this article is to explore causal explanations in a traditional fishing community in Brazil that provide resources for transdisciplinary collaboration, without neglecting differences between Indigenous and academic experts. Semi-structured interviews were carried out in a fishing village in the North shore of Bahia and our findings show that community members often rely on causal explanations for local ecological phenomena with (...)
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  • In search of an ontology for 4E theories: from new mechanism to causal powers realism.Charles Lassiter & Joseph Vukov - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):9785-9808.
    Embodied, embedded, enactive, and extended theorists do not typically focus on the ontological frameworks in which they develop their theories. One exception is 4E theories that embrace New Mechanism. In this paper, we endorse the New Mechanist’s general turn to ontology, but argue that their ontology is not the best on the market for 4E theories. Instead, we advocate for a different ontology: causal powers realism. Causal powers realism posits that psychological manifestations are the product of mental powers, and that (...)
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  • Mechanistic Explanation in Psychology.Mark Povich - forthcoming - In Hank Stam & Huib Looren De Jong (eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Theoretical Psychology. (Eds.) Hank Stam and Huib Looren de Jong. Sage.
    Philosophers of psychology debate, among other things, which psychological models, if any, are (or provide) mechanistic explanations. This should seem a little strange given that there is rough consensus on the following two claims: 1) a mechanism is an organized collection of entities and activities that produces, underlies, or maintains a phenomenon, and 2) a mechanistic explanation describes, represents, or provides information about the mechanism producing, underlying, or maintaining the phenomenon to be explained (i.e. the explanandum phenomenon) (Bechtel and Abrahamsen (...)
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  • Putting History Back into Mechanisms.Justin Garson - 2023 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 74 (4):921-940.
    Mechanisms, in the prominent biological sense of the term, are historical entities. That is, whether or not something is a mechanism for something depends on its history. Put differently, while your spontaneously-generated molecule-for-molecule double has a heart, and its heart pumps blood around its body, its heart does not have a mechanism for pumping, since it does not have the right history. My argument for this claim is that mechanisms have proper functions; proper functions are historical entities; so, mechanisms are (...)
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  • Information and explanation: an inconsistent triad and solution.Mark Povich - 2021 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (2):1-17.
    An important strand in philosophy of science takes scientific explanation to consist in the conveyance of some kind of information. Here I argue that this idea is also implicit in some core arguments of mechanists, some of whom are proponents of an ontic conception of explanation that might be thought inconsistent with it. However, informational accounts seem to conflict with some lay and scientific commonsense judgments and a central goal of the theory of explanation, because information is relative to the (...)
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  • The Aims and Structures of Research Projects That Use Gene Regulatory Information with Evolutionary Genetic Models.Steve Elliott - 2017 - Dissertation, Arizona State University
    At the interface of developmental biology and evolutionary biology, the very criteria of scientific knowledge are up for grabs. A central issue is the status of evolutionary genetics models, which some argue cannot coherently be used with complex gene regulatory network (GRN) models to explain the same evolutionary phenomena. Despite those claims, many researchers use evolutionary genetics models jointly with GRN models to study evolutionary phenomena. This dissertation compares two recent research projects in which researchers jointly use the two kinds (...)
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  • Scientific Practice in Modeling Diseases: Stances from Cancer Research and Neuropsychiatry.Marta Bertolaso & Raffaella Campaner - 2020 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 45 (1):105-128.
    In the last few decades, philosophy of science has increasingly focused on multilevel models and causal mechanistic explanations to account for complex biological phenomena. On the one hand, biological and biomedical works make extensive use of mechanistic concepts; on the other hand, philosophers have analyzed an increasing range of examples taken from different domains in the life sciences to test—support or criticize—the adequacy of mechanistic accounts. The article highlights some challenges in the elaboration of mechanistic explanations with a focus on (...)
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  • Teaching and Learning Guide for: Explanation in Mathematics: Proofs and Practice.William D'Alessandro - 2019 - Philosophy Compass 14 (11):e12629.
    This is a teaching and learning guide to accompany "Explanation in Mathematics: Proofs and Practice".
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  • Pojetí mechanismu v současné teorii vědy.Arnošt Veselý - 2016 - Teorie Vědy / Theory of Science 38 (2):159-175.
    Článek podává systematický kritický přehled o pojetí mechanismu v tzv. nové mechanistické filosofii. Nejdříve je popsán vznik a hlavní principy NMF. Je ukázáno, že NMF vznikla do značné míry jako kritická reakce na, do té doby převažující, logický empirismus. Dále jsou představeny hlavní definiční znaky mechanismu, které jsou po té jednotlivě rozebrány. Na závěr jsou diskutovány přednosti a omezení NMF. Je argumentováno, že NMF nabídla novou a realističtější perspektivu na způsob, jakým se věda dělá a jak se dochází k vědeckým (...)
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  • Relating traditional and academic ecological knowledge: mechanistic and holistic epistemologies across cultures.David Ludwig & Luana Poliseli - 2018 - Biology and Philosophy 33 (5-6):43.
    Current debates about the integration of traditional and academic ecological knowledge struggle with a dilemma of division and assimilation. On the one hand, the emphasis on differences between traditional and academic perspectives has been criticized as creating an artificial divide that brands TEK as “non-scientific” and contributes to its marginalization. On the other hand, there has been increased concern about inadequate assimilation of Indigenous and other traditional perspectives into scientific practices that disregards the holistic nature and values of TEK. The (...)
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  • Complements, Not Competitors: Causal and Mathematical Explanations.Holly Andersen - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (2):485-508.
    A finer-grained delineation of a given explanandum reveals a nexus of closely related causal and non-causal explanations, complementing one another in ways that yield further explanatory traction on the phenomenon in question. By taking a narrower construal of what counts as a causal explanation, a new class of distinctively mathematical explanations pops into focus; Lange’s characterization of distinctively mathematical explanations can be extended to cover these. This new class of distinctively mathematical explanations is illustrated with the Lotka–Volterra equations. There are (...)
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  • Introduction: Scientific Explanation Beyond Causation.Alexander Reutlinger & Juha Saatsi - 2018 - In Alexander Reutlinger & Juha Saatsi (eds.), Explanation Beyond Causation: Philosophical Perspectives on Non-Causal Explanations. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
    This is an introduction to the volume "Explanation Beyond Causation: Philosophical Perspectives on Non-Causal Explanations", edited by A. Reutlinger and J. Saatsi (OUP, forthcoming in 2017). -/- Explanations are very important to us in many contexts: in science, mathematics, philosophy, and also in everyday and juridical contexts. But what is an explanation? In the philosophical study of explanation, there is long-standing, influential tradition that links explanation intimately to causation: we often explain by providing accurate information about the causes of the (...)
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  • Mechanisms, counterfactuals and laws.Stavros Ioannidis & Stathis Psillos - 2017 - In Stuart Glennan & Phyllis McKay Illari (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Mechanisms and Mechanical Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 144-156.
    In this chapter we examine the relation between mechanisms and laws/counterfactuals by revisiting the main notions of mechanism found in the literature. We distinguish between two different conceptions of ‘mechanism’: mechanisms-of underlie or constitute a causal process; mechanisms-for are complex systems that function so as to produce a certain behavior. According to some mechanists, a mechanism fulfills both of these roles simultaneously. The main argument of the chapter is that there is an asymmetrical dependence between both kinds of mechanisms and (...)
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  • Reconciling New Mechanism and Psychological Explanation: A Pragmatic Approach.Michael De Vivo - unknown
    Recently, Gualtiero Piccinini and Carl Craver have argued that functional analyses in psychology lack explanatory autonomy from explanations in neuroscience. In this thesis I argue against this claim by motivating and defending a pragmatic-epistemic conception of autonomous psychological explanation. I argue that this conception of autonomy need not require that functional analyses be distinct in kind from neural-mechanistic explanations. I use the framework of Bas van Fraassen’s Pragmatic Theory of Explanation to show that explanations in psychology and neuroscience can be (...)
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  • What Would Hume Say? Regularities, Laws, and Mechanisms.Holly Andersen - 2017 - In Phyllis Ilari & Stuart Glennan (eds.), What Would Hume Say? Regularities, Laws, and Mechanisms. pp. 157-168.
    This chapter examines the relationship between laws and mechanisms as approaches to characterising generalizations and explanations in science. I give an overview of recent historical discussions where laws failed to satisfy stringent logical criteria, opening the way for mechanisms to be investigated as a way to explain regularities in nature. This followed by a critical discussion of contemporary debates about the role of laws versus mechanisms in describing versus explaining regularities. I conclude by offering new arguments for two roles for (...)
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  • Mechanisms in psychology: ripping nature at its seams.Catherine Stinson - 2016 - Synthese 193 (5).
    Recent extensions of mechanistic explanation into psychology suggest that cognitive models are only explanatory insofar as they map neatly onto, and serve as scaffolding for more detailed neural models. Filling in those neural details is what these accounts take the integration of cognitive psychology and neuroscience to mean, and they take this process to be seamless. Critics of this view have given up on cognitive models possibly explaining mechanistically in the course of arguing for cognitive models having explanatory value independent (...)
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  • Reduction in the Biomedical Sciences.Holly Andersen - 2016 - In Miriam Solomon, Jeremy R. Simon & Harold Kincaid (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Medicine. New York, NY: Routledge.
    This chapter discusses several kinds of reduction that are often found in the biomedical sciences, in contrast to reduction in fields such as physics. This includes reduction as a methodological assumption for how to investigate phenomena like complex diseases, and reduction as a conceptual tool for relating distinct models of the same phenomenon. The case of Parkinson’s disease illustrates a wide variety of ways in which reductionism is an important tool in medicine.
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  • Complements, not competitors: causal and mathematical explanations.Holly Andersen - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (2):485-508.
    A finer-grained delineation of a given explanandum reveals a nexus of closely related causal and non- causal explanations, complementing one another in ways that yield further explanatory traction on the phenomenon in question. By taking a narrower construal of what counts as a causal explanation, a new class of distinctively mathematical explanations pops into focus; Lange’s characterization of distinctively mathematical explanations can be extended to cover these. This new class of distinctively mathematical explanations is illustrated with the Lotka-Volterra equations. There (...)
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  • Expanding the notion of mechanism to further understanding of biopsychosocial disorders? Depression and medically-unexplained pain as cases in point.Jan Pieter Konsman - 2024 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 103 (C):123-136.
    Evidence-Based Medicine has little consideration for mechanisms and philosophers of science and medicine have recently made pleas to increase the place of mechanisms in the medical evidence hierarchy. However, in this debate the notions of mechanisms seem to be limited to 'mechanistic processes' and 'complex-systems mechanisms,' understood as 'componential causal systems'. I believe that this will not do full justice to how mechanisms are used in biological, psychological and social sciences and, consequently, in a more biopsychosocial approach to medicine. Here, (...)
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  • Explanation in mathematics: Proofs and practice.William D'Alessandro - 2019 - Philosophy Compass 14 (11):e12629.
    Mathematicians distinguish between proofs that explain their results and those that merely prove. This paper explores the nature of explanatory proofs, their role in mathematical practice, and some of the reasons why philosophers should care about them. Among the questions addressed are the following: what kinds of proofs are generally explanatory (or not)? What makes a proof explanatory? Do all mathematical explanations involve proof in an essential way? Are there really such things as explanatory proofs, and if so, how do (...)
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  • Causal Concepts in Biology: How Pathways Differ from Mechanisms and Why It Matters.Lauren N. Ross - 2021 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 72 (1):131-158.
    In the last two decades few topics in philosophy of science have received as much attention as mechanistic explanation. A significant motivation for these accounts is that scientists frequently use the term “mechanism” in their explanations of biological phenomena. While scientists appeal to a variety of causal concepts in their explanations, many philosophers argue or assume that all of these concepts are well understood with the single notion of mechanism. This reveals a significant problem with mainstream mechanistic accounts– although philosophers (...)
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  • The conceptual critique of innateness.Stefan Linquist - 2018 - Philosophy Compass 13 (5):e12492.
    It is widely recognized that the innate versus acquired distinction is a false dichotomy. Yet many scientists continue to describe certain traits as “innate” and take this to imply that those traits are not acquired, or “unlearned.” This article asks what cognitive role, if any, the concept of innateness should play in the psychological and behavioural sciences. I consider three arguments for eliminating innateness from scientific discourse. First, the classification of a trait as innate is thought to discourage empirical research (...)
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  • Functional individuation, mechanistic implementation: the proper way of seeing the mechanistic view of concrete computation.Dimitri Coelho Mollo - 2017 - Synthese 195 (8):3477-3497.
    I examine a major objection to the mechanistic view of concrete computation, stemming from an apparent tension between the abstract nature of computational explanation and the tenets of the mechanistic framework: while computational explanation is medium-independent, the mechanistic framework insists on the importance of providing some degree of structural detail about the systems target of the explanation. I show that a common reply to the objection, i.e. that mechanistic explanation of computational systems involves only weak structural constraints, is not enough (...)
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  • What is mechanistic evidence, and why do we need it for evidence-based policy?Caterina Marchionni & Samuli Reijula - 2019 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 73:54-63.
    It has recently been argued that successful evidence-based policy should rely on two kinds of evidence: statistical and mechanistic. The former is held to be evidence that a policy brings about the desired outcome, and the latter concerns how it does so. Although agreeing with the spirit of this proposal, we argue that the underlying conception of mechanistic evidence as evidence that is different in kind from correlational, difference-making or statistical evidence, does not correctly capture the role that information about (...)
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  • Explanation beyond causation? New directions in the philosophy of scientific explanation.Alexander Reutlinger - 2017 - Philosophy Compass 12 (2):e12395.
    In this paper, I aim to provide access to the current debate on non-causal explanations in philosophy of science. I will first present examples of non-causal explanations in the sciences. Then, I will outline three alternative approaches to non-causal explanations – that is, causal reductionism, pluralism, and monism – and, corresponding to these three approaches, different strategies for distinguishing between causal and non-causal explanation. Finally, I will raise questions for future research on non-causal explanations.
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  • Abstract versus Causal Explanations?Reutlinger Alexander & Andersen Holly - 2016 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 30 (2):129-146.
    In the recent literature on causal and non-causal scientific explanations, there is an intuitive assumption according to which an explanation is non-causal by virtue of being abstract. In this context, to be ‘abstract’ means that the explanans in question leaves out many or almost all causal microphysical details of the target system. After motivating this assumption, we argue that the abstractness assumption, in placing the abstract and the causal character of an explanation in tension, is misguided in ways that are (...)
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  • Design principles and mechanistic explanation.Wei Fang - 2022 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 44 (4):1-23.
    In this essay I propose that what design principles in systems biology and systems neuroscience do is to present abstract characterizations of mechanisms, and thereby facilitate mechanistic explanation. To show this, one design principle in systems neuroscience, i.e., the multilayer perceptron, is examined. However, Braillard contends that design principles provide a sort of non-mechanistic explanation due to two related reasons: they are very general and describe non-causal dependence relationships. In response to this, I argue that, on the one hand, all (...)
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  • Revisiting abstraction and idealization: how not to criticize mechanistic explanation in molecular biology.Martin Zach - 2022 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 12 (1):1-20.
    Abstraction and idealization are the two notions that are most often discussed in the context of assumptions employed in the process of model building. These notions are also routinely used in philosophical debates such as that on the mechanistic account of explanation. Indeed, an objection to the mechanistic account has recently been formulated precisely on these grounds: mechanists cannot account for the common practice of idealizing difference-making factors in models in molecular biology. In this paper I revisit the debate and (...)
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  • Relational Mechanisms.Thorsten Peetz - 2019 - Analyse & Kritik 41 (1):147-174.
    This article challenges the view that sociological explanation is based on methodological individualism and suggests using relational concepts for constructing explanations of social phenomena. It develops a relational concept of social mechanisms based on sociological systems theory and illustrates its explanatory power by drawing on research on changes in educational organizations in Germany.
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  • Explanatory hierarchy of causal structures in molecular biology.Zdenka Brzović, Vito Balorda & Predrag Šustar - 2021 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (2):1-21.
    In the debate on causal explanation in biology, in the past two decades largely influenced by the new mechanist approach, the concept of a pathway has recently reemerged as a promising research agenda, 551-572, 2018; The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 72, 131-158, 2021). Ross’ account of biological explanation differentiates several autonomous types of causal structures that play explanatory and other roles across the life sciences. NM, however, prioritizes mechanisms as vehicles of biological explanations. According to this program, (...)
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  • Causal Reasoning and Clinical Practice: Challenges from Molecular Biology.Giovanni Boniolo & Raffaella Campaner - 2019 - Topoi 38 (2):423-435.
    Not only has the philosophical debate on causation been gaining ground in the last few decades, but it has also increasingly addressed the sciences. The biomedical sciences are among the most prominent fields that have been considered, with a number of works tackling the understanding of the notion of cause, the assessment of genuinely causal relations and the use of causal knowledge in applied contexts. Far from denying the merits of the debate on causation and the major theories it comprises, (...)
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  • Causal inquiry in the social sciences: the promise of process tracing.Rosa Runhardt - 2015 - Dissertation, London School of Economics
    In this thesis I investigate causal inquiry in the social sciences, drawing on examples from various disciplines and in particular from conflict studies. In a backlash against the pervasiveness of statistical methods, in the last decade certain social scientists have focused on finding the causal mechanisms behind observed correlations. To provide evidence for such mechanisms, researchers increasingly rely on ‘process tracing’, a method which attempts to give evidence for causal relations by specifying the chain of events connecting a putative cause (...)
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  • Intervening into mechanisms: Prospects and challenges.Lena Kästner & Lise Marie Andersen - 2018 - Philosophy Compass 13 (11):e12546.
    In contemporary philosophy of science, the consensus view seems to be that scientific explanations describe mechanisms responsible for the phenomena to be explained. Two kinds of explanatory relevance figure in mechanistic accounts of explanation: causal and constitutive. Following prominent accounts, it seems natural to analyze both these relations in terms of systematic interventions into some factor X with respect to another factor Y. However, such interventions are tailored to uncover causal relations only. Construing the constitutive relationship between parts and wholes (...)
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  • Evidence-based Medicine and Mechanistic Evidence: The Case of the Failed Rollout of Efavirenz in Zimbabwe.Andrew Park, Daniel Steel & Elicia Maine - 2023 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 48 (4):348-358.
    Evidence-based medicine (EBM) has long deemphasized mechanistic reasoning and pathophysiological rationale in assessing the effectiveness of interventions. The EBM+ movement has challenged this stance, arguing that evidence of mechanisms and comparative studies should both be seen as necessary and complementary. Advocates of EBM+ provide a combination of theoretical arguments and examples of mechanistic reasoning in medical research. However, EBM+ proponents have not provided recent examples of how downplaying mechanistic reasoning resulted in worse medical results than would have occurred otherwise. Such (...)
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