Mechanisms in practice: A methodological approach

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In this paper we offer a minimal characterisation of the concept of mechanism in biomedicine, according to which a mechanism is a theoretically described causal pathway. We argue that this conceptionan be drawn from scientific practice, as illustrated by how a central biological and biomedical mechanism, the mechanism of apoptosis, was first identified and characterised. We will use the example of cytological and biochemical theoretical descriptions of the mechanism of apoptosis to draw lessons about the meaning of the concept of mechanism in biomedical contexts and to contrast our preferred account of mechanism with some prominent accounts within the philosophical literature. The main outcome of our discussion will be that commitment to mechanism is first and foremost a methodological stance.
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Archival date: 2019-06-21
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