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  1. Recent Work in The Philosophy of Biology.Christopher J. Austin - 2017 - Analysis 77 (2):anx032.
    The biological sciences have always proven a fertile ground for philosophical analysis, one from which has grown a rich tradition stemming from Aristotle and flowering with Darwin. And although contemporary philosophy is increasingly becoming conceptually entwined with the study of the empirical sciences with the data of the latter now being regularly utilised in the establishment and defence of the frameworks of the former, a practice especially prominent in the philosophy of physics, the development of that tradition hasn’t received the (...)
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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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  • 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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  • What Can Polysemy Tell Us About Theories of Explanation?Maria Şerban - 2017 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 7 (1):41-56.
    Philosophical accounts of scientific explanation are broadly divided into ontic and epistemic views. This paper explores the idea that the lexical ambiguity of the verb to explain and its nominalisation supports an ontic conception of explanation. I analyse one argument which challenges this strategy by criticising the claim that explanatory talk is lexically ambiguous, 375–394, 2012). I propose that the linguistic mechanism of transfer of meaning, 109–132, 1995) provides a better account of the lexical alternations that figure in the systematic (...)
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  • Discovering Patterns: On the Norms of Mechanistic Inquiry.Lena Kästner & Philipp Haueis - forthcoming - Erkenntnis 3:1-26.
    What kinds of norms constrain mechanistic discovery and explanation? In the mechanistic literature, the norms for good explanations are directly derived from answers to the metaphysical question of what explanations are. Prominent mechanistic accounts thus emphasize either ontic or epistemic norms. Still, mechanistic philosophers on both sides agree that there is no sharp distinction between the processes of discovery and explanation. Thus, it seems reasonable to expect that ontic and epistemic accounts of explanation will be accompanied by ontic and epistemic (...)
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  • Explanatory Completeness and Idealization in Large Brain Simulations: A Mechanistic Perspective.Marcin Miłkowski - 2016 - Synthese 193 (5):1457-1478.
    The claim defended in the paper is that the mechanistic account of explanation can easily embrace idealization in big-scale brain simulations, and that only causally relevant detail should be present in explanatory models. The claim is illustrated with two methodologically different models: Blue Brain, used for particular simulations of the cortical column in hybrid models, and Eliasmith’s SPAUN model that is both biologically realistic and able to explain eight different tasks. By drawing on the mechanistic theory of computational explanation, I (...)
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  • Beyond Black Dots and Nutritious Things: A Solution to the Indeterminacy Problem.Marc Artiga - 2021 - Mind and Language 36 (3):471-490.
    The indeterminacy problem is one of the most prominent objections against naturalistic theories of content. In this essay I present this difficulty and argue that extant accounts are unable to solve it. Then, I develop a particular version of teleosemantics, which I call ’explanation-based teleosemantics’, and show how this outstanding problem can be addressed within the framework of a powerful naturalistic theory.
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  • Importance and Explanatory Relevance: The Case of Mathematical Explanations.Gabriel Târziu - 2018 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 49 (3):393-412.
    A way to argue that something plays an explanatory role in science is by linking explanatory relevance with importance in the context of an explanation. The idea is deceptively simple: a part of an explanation is an explanatorily relevant part of that explanation if removing it affects the explanation either by destroying it or by diminishing its explanatory power, i.e. an important part is an explanatorily relevant part. This can be very useful in many ontological debates. My aim in this (...)
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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • A Rejoinder to Henschen: The Issue of VAR and DSGE Models.Mariusz Maziarz & Robert Mróz - 2020 - Journal of Economic Methodology 27 (3):266-268.
    Volume 27, Issue 3, September 2020, Page 266-268.
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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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  • Psychoneural Isomorphism: From Metaphysics to Robustness.Alfredo Vernazzani - 2020 - In Marco Viola & Fabrizio Calzavarini (eds.), Neural Mechanisms: New Challenges in the Philosophy of Neuroscience. Springer.
    At the beginning of the 20th century, Gestalt psychologists put forward the concept of psychoneural isomorphism, which was meant to replace Fechner’s obscure notion of psychophysical parallelism and provide a heuristics that may facilitate the search for the neural correlates of the mind. However, the concept has generated much confusion in the debate, and today its role is still unclear. In this contribution, I will attempt a little conceptual spadework in clarifying the concept of psychoneural isomorphism, focusing exclusively on conscious (...)
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  • A Regularist Approach to Mechanistic Type-Level Explanation.Beate Krickel - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (4):00-00.
    Most defenders of the new mechanistic approach accept ontic constraints for successful scientific explanation (Illari 2013; Craver 2014). The minimal claim is that scientific explanations have objective truthmakers, namely mechanisms that exist in the physical world independently of any observer and that cause or constitute the phenomena-to- be-explained. How can this idea be applied to type-level explanations? Many authors at least implicitly assume that in order for mechanisms to be the truthmakers of type-level explanation they need to be regular (Andersen (...)
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  • Minimal Models and the Generalized Ontic Conception of Scientific Explanation.Mark Povich - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (1):117-137.
    Batterman and Rice ([2014]) argue that minimal models possess explanatory power that cannot be captured by what they call ‘common features’ approaches to explanation. Minimal models are explanatory, according to Batterman and Rice, not in virtue of accurately representing relevant features, but in virtue of answering three questions that provide a ‘story about why large classes of features are irrelevant to the explanandum phenomenon’ ([2014], p. 356). In this article, I argue, first, that a method (the renormalization group) they propose (...)
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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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  • 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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  • Idealization and the Ontic Conception: A Reply to Bokulich.Carl F. Craver - 2019 - The Monist 102 (4):525-530.
    In a recent issue of The Monist, Alisa Bokulich argues that those who embrace an ontic conception of scientific explanation are committed to rejecting an explanatory role for idealized, i.e., deliberately false, models. Her argument is based on an inaccurate characterization of the ontic view. Indeed, her positive view of idealization embraces rather than opposes the ontic conception. Because Bokulich is not alone in this misunderstanding, an effort to diagnose and correct it might prevent scholars from talking past one another (...)
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  • 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 and Non-Mechanistic Varieties of Dynamical Models in Cognitive Science: Explanatory Power, Understanding, and the ‘Mere Description’ Worry.Raoul Gervais - 2015 - Synthese 192 (1):43-66.
    In the literature on dynamical models in cognitive science, two issues have recently caused controversy. First, what is the relation between dynamical and mechanistic models? I will argue that dynamical models can be upgraded to be mechanistic as well, and that there are mechanistic and non-mechanistic dynamical models. Second, there is the issue of explanatory power. Since it is uncontested the mechanistic models can explain, I will focus on the non-mechanistic variety of dynamical models. It is often claimed by proponents (...)
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  • Did the Bacterium Really Kill the Colonel? Systemic View, Inter-Level Causation, and Levels of Quasi-Decompositionality in Mechanistic Explanations.Emilio Cáceres Vázquez & Cristian Saborido - 2018 - Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 33 (1):129-148.
    In this paper, we critically analyze the mechanicist approach to scientific explanation and propose to complement this view with a conception of level as interval of quasi-decompositionality. This conception allows us to metaphysically base the mechanicist proposals on characteristic systemic features. By means of concrete examples, we claim that this proposal is able to overcome some of the alleged limitations of predominant models of mechanistic explanation.
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  • Fiction As a Vehicle for Truth: Moving Beyond the Ontic Conception.Alisa Bokulich - 2016 - The Monist 99 (3):260-279.
    Despite widespread evidence that fictional models play an explanatory role in science, resistance remains to the idea that fictions can explain. A central source of this resistance is a particular view about what explanations are, namely, the ontic conception of explanation. According to the ontic conception, explanations just are the concrete entities in the world. I argue this conception is ultimately incoherent and that even a weaker version of the ontic conception fails. Fictional models can succeed in offering genuine explanations (...)
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  • Representing and Explaining: The Eikonic Conception of Scientific Explanation.Alisa Bokulich - 2018 - Philosophy of Science (5):793-805.
    The ontic conception of explanation, according to which explanations are "full-bodied things in the world," is fundamentally misguided. I argue instead for what I call the eikonic conception, according to which explanations are the product of an epistemic activity involving representations of the phenomena to be explained. What is explained in the first instance is a particular conceptualization of the explanandum phenomenon, contextualized within a given research program or explanatory project. I conclude that this eikonic conception has a number of (...)
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  • Mechanisms Meet Structural Explanation.Laura Felline - 2018 - Synthese 195 (1):99-114.
    This paper investigates the relationship between structural explanation and the New Mechanistic account of explanation. The aim of this paper is twofold: firstly, to argue that some phenomena in the domain of fundamental physics, although mechanically brute, are structurally explained; and secondly, by elaborating on the contrast between SE and mechanistic explanation to better clarify some features of SE. Finally, this paper will argue that, notwithstanding their apparently antithetical character, SE and ME can be reconciled within a unified account of (...)
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  • A Field Guide to Mechanisms: Part I.Holly Andersen - 2014 - Philosophy Compass 9 (4):274-283.
    In this field guide, I distinguish five separate senses with which the term ‘mechanism’ is used in contemporary philosophy of science. Many of these senses have overlapping areas of application but involve distinct philosophical claims and characterize the target mechanisms in relevantly different ways. This field guide will clarify the key features of each sense and introduce some main debates, distinguishing those that transpire within a given sense from those that are best understood as concerning distinct senses. The ‘new mechanisms’ (...)
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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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  • 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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