Mechanistic artefact explanation

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 37 (1):81-96 (2006)
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Abstract

One thing about technical artefacts that needs to be explained is how their physical make-up, or structure, enables them to fulfil the behaviour associated with their function, or, more colloquially, how they work. In this paper I develop an account of such explanations based on the familiar notion of mechanistic explanation. To accomplish this, I outline two explanatory strategies that provide two different types of insight into an artefact’s functioning, and show how human action inevitably plays a role in artefact explanation. I then use my own account to criticize other recent work on mechanistic explanation and conclude with some general implications for the philosophy of explanation.Keywords: Artefact; Technical function; Explanation; Levels of explanation; Mechanisms.

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Jeroen De Ridder
VU University Amsterdam

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