Decoupling Topological Explanations from Mechanisms

Philosophy of Science 90 (2):245 - 268 (2023)
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We provide three innovations to recent debates about whether topological or “network” explanations are a species of mechanistic explanation. First, we more precisely characterize the requirement that all topological explanations are mechanistic explanations and show scientific practice to belie such a requirement. Second, we provide an account that unifies mechanistic and non-mechanistic topological explanations, thereby enriching both the mechanist and autonomist programs by highlighting when and where topological explanations are mechanistic. Third, we defend this view against some powerful mechanist objections. We conclude from this that topological explanations are autonomous from their mechanistic counterparts.

Author Profiles

Daniel Kostić
Leiden University
Kareem Khalifa
University of California, Los Angeles


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