General Theory of Topological Explanations and Explanatory Asymmetry

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 375 (1796):1-8 (2020)
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Abstract

In this paper, I present a general theory of topological explanations, and illustrate its fruitfulness by showing how it accounts for explanatory asymmetry. My argument is developed in three steps. In the first step, I show what it is for some topological property A to explain some physical or dynamical property B. Based on that, I derive three key criteria of successful topological explanations: a criterion concerning the facticity of topological explanations, i.e. what makes it true of a particular system; a criterion for describing counterfactual dependencies in two explanatory modes, i.e. the vertical and the horizontal; and, finally, a third perspectival one that tells us when to use the vertical and when to use the horizontal mode. In the second step, I show how this general theory of topological explanations accounts for explanatory asymmetry in both the vertical and horizontal explanatory modes. Finally, in the third step, I argue that this theory is universally applicable across biological sciences, which helps to unify essential concepts of biological networks.

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Daniel Kostić
Radboud University Nijmegen

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