Mechanistic explanation: asymmetry lost

In Dennis Dieks & Vassilios Karakostas (eds.), Recent Progress in Philosophy of Science: Perspectives and Foundational Problems. Springer (2013)
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Abstract

In a recent book and an article, Carl Craver construes the relations between different levels of a mechanism, which he also refers to as constitutive relations, in terms of mutual manipulability (MM). Interpreted metaphysically, MM implies that inter-level relations are symmetrical. MM thus violates one of the main desiderata of scientific explanation, namely explanatory asymmetry. Parts of Craver’s writings suggest a metaphysical interpretation of MM, and Craver explicitly commits to constitutive relationships being symmetrical. The paper furthermore explores the option of interpreting MM epistemologically, as a means for individuating mechanisms. It is argued that MM then is redundant. MM should therefore better be abandoned.

Author's Profile

Samuel Schindler
Aarhus University

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