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Mechanisms and psychological explanation

In Paul Thagard (ed.), Philosophy of Psychology and Cognitive Science. Elsevier (2007)

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  1. Ontic Explanation Is Either Ontic or Explanatory, but Not Both.Cory Wright & Dingmar van Eck - 2018 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 5:997–1029.
    What features will something have if it counts as an explanation? And will something count as an explanation if it has those features? In the second half of the 20th century, philosophers of science set for themselves the task of answering such questions, just as a priori conceptual analysis was generally falling out of favor. And as it did, most philosophers of science just moved on to more manageable questions about the varieties of explanation and discipline-specific scientific explanation. Often, such (...)
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  • Mechanistic Explanation in Engineering Science.Dingmar van Eck - 2015 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 5 (3):349-375.
    In this paper I apply the mechanistic account of explanation to engineering science. I discuss two ways in which this extension offers further development of the mechanistic view. First, functional individuation of mechanisms in engineering science proceeds by means of two distinct sub types of role function, behavior function and effect function, rather than role function simpliciter. Second, it offers refined assessment of the explanatory power of mechanistic explanations. It is argued that in the context of malfunction explanations of technical (...)
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  • Mechanistic Explanation: Integrating the Ontic and Epistemic.Phyllis Illari - 2013 - Erkenntnis 78 (2):237-255.
    Craver claims that mechanistic explanation is ontic, while Bechtel claims that it is epistemic. While this distinction between ontic and epistemic explanation originates with Salmon, the ideas have changed in the modern debate on mechanistic explanation, where the frame of the debate is changing. I will explore what Bechtel and Craver’s claims mean, and argue that good mechanistic explanations must satisfy both ontic and epistemic normative constraints on what is a good explanation. I will argue for ontic constraints by drawing (...)
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  • Possibilist Explanation: Explaining How-Possibly Through Laws.Gustavo A. Castañon - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-18.
    ‘Possibilist Explanation’ is a promising account of scientific explanation which avoids the familiar problems of “how-possibly explanations”. It explains an event by showing how-actually it was epistemically possible, instead of why it was epistemically necessary. Its explanandum is the epistemic possibility of an actual event previously considered epistemically impossible. To define PE, two new concepts are introduced: ‘permissive condition’ and ‘possibilist law’. A permissive condition for an event is something that does not entail the event itself, but a necessary condition (...)
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  • Mechanistic Explanation at the Limit.Jonathan Waskan - 2011 - Synthese 183 (3):389-408.
    Resurgent interest in both mechanistic and counterfactual theories of explanation has led to a fair amount of discussion regarding the relative merits of these two approaches. James Woodward is currently the pre-eminent counterfactual theorist, and he criticizes the mechanists on the following grounds: Unless mechanists about explanation invoke counterfactuals, they cannot make sense of claims about causal interactions between mechanism parts or of causal explanations put forward absent knowledge of productive mechanisms. He claims that these shortfalls can be offset if (...)
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  • Intractability and the Use of Heuristics in Psychological Explanations.Iris Rooij, Cory Wright & Todd Wareham - 2012 - Synthese 187 (2):471-487.
    Many cognitive scientists, having discovered that some computational-level characterization f of a cognitive capacity φ is intractable, invoke heuristics as algorithmic-level explanations of how cognizers compute f. We argue that such explanations are actually dysfunctional, and rebut five possible objections. We then propose computational-level theory revision as a principled and workable alternative.
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  • HIT and Brain Reward Function: A Case of Mistaken Identity (Theory).Cory Wright, Matteo Colombo & Alexander Beard - 2017 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 64:28–40.
    This paper employs a case study from the history of neuroscience—brain reward function—to scrutinize the inductive argument for the so-called ‘Heuristic Identity Theory’ (HIT). The case fails to support HIT, illustrating why other case studies previously thought to provide empirical support for HIT also fold under scrutiny. After distinguishing two different ways of understanding the types of identity claims presupposed by HIT and considering other conceptual problems, we conclude that HIT is not an alternative to the traditional identity theory so (...)
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  • Functional Decomposition: On Rationality and Incommensurability in Engineering.D. Van Eck - unknown
    The concept of technical function is a key concept to describe technical artifacts and artifacts-to-be-designed. Engineers often give such descriptions in terms of functional decomposition models, which represent relationships between functions and sets of other functions. Despite the importance of the concept of function there is no consensus among engineers about its meaning. Models of functional decomposition are likewise conceptually divergent. Although this conceptual diversity hampers information exchange between engineers, they accept and maintain it. Engineers do not, by and large, (...)
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  • Models, Mechanisms, and Coherence.Matteo Colombo, Stephan Hartmann & Robert van Iersel - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (1):181-212.
    Life-science phenomena are often explained by specifying the mechanisms that bring them about. The new mechanistic philosophers have done much to substantiate this claim and to provide us with a better understanding of what mechanisms are and how they explain. Although there is disagreement among current mechanists on various issues, they share a common core position and a seeming commitment to some form of scientific realism. But is such a commitment necessary? Is it the best way to go about mechanistic (...)
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  • Reducing Psychology While Maintaining its Autonomy Via Mechanistic Explanations.William Bechtel - 2007 - In M. Schouten & H. L. De Joong (eds.), The Matter of the Mind: Philosophical Essays on Psychology, Neuroscience and Reduction. Blackwell.
    Arguments for the autonomy of psychology or other higher-level sciences have often taken the form of denying the possibility of reduction. The form of reduction most proponents and critics of the autonomy of psychology have in mind is theory reduction. Mechanistic explanations provide a different perspective. Mechanistic explanations are reductionist insofar as they appeal to lower-level entities—the component parts of a mechanism and their operations— to explain a phenomenon. However, unlike theory reductions, mechanistic explanations also recognize the fundamental role of (...)
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  • Knowledge of Counterfactual Interventions Through Cognitive Models of Mechanisms.Jonathan Waskan - 2008 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 22 (3):259 – 275.
    Here I consider the relative merits of two recent models of explanation, James Woodward's interventionist-counterfactual model and the model model. According to the former, explanations are largely constituted by information about the consequences of counterfactual interventions. Problems arise for this approach because countless relevant interventions are possible in most cases and because it overlooks other kinds of equally relevant information. According the model model, explanations are largely constituted by cognitive models of actual mechanisms. On this approach, explanations tend not to (...)
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  • Intelligibility and the CAPE: Combatting Anti-Psychologism About Explanation.Jonathan Waskan - unknown
    Much of the philosophical discussion of explanations has centered around two broad conceptions of what sorts of ‘things’ explanations are – namely, the descriptive and ontic conceptions. Defenders of each argue that scientific psychology has at best little to contribute to the study of explanations. These anti-psychologistic arguments come in two main varieties, the metaphysical and the epistemic. Both varieties trace back to Hempel and recur in the more recent writings of prominent mechanists. The metaphysical arguments attempt to combat psychologism (...)
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  • Heuristics, Descriptions, and the Scope of Mechanistic Explanation.Carlos Zednik - 2015 - In P. Braillard & C. Malaterre (eds.), Explanation in Biology. An Enquiry into the Diversity of Explanatory Patterns in the Life Sciences. Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 295-318.
    The philosophical conception of mechanistic explanation is grounded on a limited number of canonical examples. These examples provide an overly narrow view of contemporary scientific practice, because they do not reflect the extent to which the heuristic strategies and descriptive practices that contribute to mechanistic explanation have evolved beyond the well-known methods of decomposition, localization, and pictorial representation. Recent examples from evolutionary robotics and network approaches to biology and neuroscience demonstrate the increasingly important role played by computer simulations and mathematical (...)
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  • Mechanisms, Models and Laws in Understanding Supernovae.Phyllis Illari - 2019 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 50 (1):63-84.
    There has been a burst of work in the last couple of decades on mechanistic explanation, as an alternative to the traditional covering-law model of scientific explanation. That work makes some interesting claims about mechanistic explanations rendering phenomena ‘intelligible’, but does not develop this idea in great depth. There has also been a growth of interest in giving an account of scientific understanding, as a complement to an account of explanation, specifically addressing a three-place relationship between explanation, world, and the (...)
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  • The Ontic Conception of Scientific Explanation.Cory Wright - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 54:20-30.
    Wesley Salmon’s version of the ontic conception of explanation is a main historical root of contemporary work on mechanistic explanation. This paper examines and critiques the philosophical merits of Salmon’s version, and argues that his conception’s most fundamental construct is either fundamentally obscure, or else reduces to a non-ontic conception of explanation. Either way, the ontic conception is a misconception.
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  • Reconciling Ontic and Epistemic Constraints on Mechanistic Explanation, Epistemically.Dingmar van Eck - 2015 - Axiomathes 25 (1):5-22.
    In this paper I address the current debate on ontic versus epistemic conceptualizations of mechanistic explanation in the mechanisms literature. Illari recently argued that good explanations are subject to both ontic and epistemic constraints: they must describe mechanisms in the world in such fashion that they provide understanding of their workings. Elaborating upon Illari’s ‘integration’ account, I argue that causal role function discovery of mechanisms and their components is an epistemic prerequisite for achieving these two aims. This analysis extends Illari’s (...)
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  • Re-Reconciling the Epistemic and Ontic Views of Explanation.Benjamin Sheredos - 2016 - Erkenntnis 81 (5):919-949.
    Recent attempts to reconcile the ontic and epistemic approaches to explanation propose that our best explanations simply fulfill epistemic and ontic norms simultaneously. I aim to upset this armistice. Epistemic norms of attaining general and systematic explanations are, I argue, autonomous of ontic norms: they cannot be fulfilled simultaneously or in simple conjunction with ontic norms, and plausibly have priority over them. One result is that central arguments put forth by ontic theorists against epistemic theorists are revealed as not only (...)
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  • Naturalisms in Philosophy of Mind.Steven Horst - 2009 - Philosophy Compass 4 (1):219-254.
    Most contemporary philosophers of mind claim to be in search of a 'naturalistic' theory. However, when we look more closely, we find that there are a number of different and even conflicting ideas of what would count as a 'naturalization' of the mind. This article attempts to show what various naturalistic philosophies of mind have in common, and also how they differ from one another. Additionally, it explores the differences between naturalistic philosophies of mind and naturalisms found in ethics, epistemology, (...)
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