Results for 'mechanistic explanation'

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  1. Mechanistic Explanation in Psychology.Mark Povich - forthcoming - In Hank Stam & Huib Looren De Jong (eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Theoretical Psychology. (Eds.) Hank Stam and Huib Looren de Jong. Sage.
    Philosophers of psychology debate, among other things, which psychological models, if any, are (or provide) mechanistic explanations. This should seem a little strange given that there is rough consensus on the following two claims: 1) a mechanism is an organized collection of entities and activities that produces, underlies, or maintains a phenomenon, and 2) a mechanistic explanation describes, represents, or provides information about the mechanism producing, underlying, or maintaining the phenomenon to be explained (i.e. the explanandum phenomenon) (...)
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  2. New Mechanistic Explanation and the Need for Explanatory Constraints.L. R. Franklin-Hall - 2016 - In Ken Aizawa & Carl Gillett (eds.), Scientific Composition and Metaphysical Ground. London: Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 41-74.
    This paper critiques the new mechanistic explanatory program on grounds that, even when applied to the kinds of examples that it was originally designed to treat, it does not distinguish correct explanations from those that blunder. First, I offer a systematization of the explanatory account, one according to which explanations are mechanistic models that satisfy three desiderata: they must 1) represent causal relations, 2) describe the proper parts, and 3) depict the system at the right ‘level.’ Second, I (...)
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  3. Mechanistic explanation without the ontic conception.Cory Wright - 2012 - European Journal of Philosophy of Science 2 (3):375-394.
    The ontic conception of scientific explanation has been constructed and motivated on the basis of a putative lexical ambiguity in the term explanation. I raise a puzzle for this ambiguity claim, and then give a deflationary solution under which all ontically-rendered talk of explanation is merely elliptical; what it is elliptical for is a view of scientific explanation that altogether avoids the ontic conception. This result has revisionary consequences for New Mechanists and other philosophers of science, (...)
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  4. Mechanistic explanation: asymmetry lost.Samuel Schindler - 2013 - In Dennis Dieks & Vassilios Karakostas (eds.), Recent Progress in Philosophy of Science: Perspectives and Foundational Problems. Springer.
    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 (...)
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  5. Aristotelian Mechanistic Explanation.Monte Johnson - 2017 - In J. Rocca (ed.), Teleology in the Ancient World: philosophical and medical approaches. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 125-150.
    In some influential histories of ancient philosophy, teleological explanation and mechanistic explanation are assumed to be directly opposed and mutually exclusive alternatives. I contend that this assumption is deeply flawed, and distorts our understanding both of teleological and mechanistic explanation, and of the history of mechanistic philosophy. To prove this point, I shall provide an overview of the first systematic treatise on mechanics, the short and neglected work Mechanical Problems, written either by Aristotle or (...)
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  6. Mechanistic Explanations and Teleological Functions.Andrew Rubner - forthcoming - The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
    This paper defines and defends a notion of teleological function which is fit to figure in explanations concerning how organic systems, and the items which compose them, are able to perform certain activities, such as surviving and reproducing or pumping blood. According to this notion, a teleological function of an item (such as the heart) is a typical way in which items of that type contribute to some containing system's ability to do some activity. An account of what it is (...)
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  7. Principled Mechanistic Explanations in Biology: A Case Study of Alzheimer's Disease.Sepehr Ehsani - manuscript
    Following an analysis of the state of investigations and clinical outcomes in the Alzheimer's research field, I argue that the widely-accepted 'amyloid cascade' mechanistic explanation of Alzheimer's disease appears to be fundamentally incomplete. In this context, I propose that a framework termed 'principled mechanism' (PM) can help with remedying this problem. First, using a series of five 'tests', PM systematically compares different components of a given mechanistic explanation against a paradigmatic set of criteria, and hints at (...)
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  8. Functional Analyses, Mechanistic Explanations, and Explanatory Tradeoffs.Sergio Daniel Barberis - 2013 - Journal of Cognitive Science 14:229-251.
    Recently, Piccinini and Craver have stated three theses concerning the relations between functional analysis and mechanistic explanation in cognitive sciences: No Distinctness: functional analysis and mechanistic explanation are explanations of the same kind; Integration: functional analysis is a kind of mechanistic explanation; and Subordination: functional analyses are unsatisfactory sketches of mechanisms. In this paper, I argue, first, that functional analysis and mechanistic explanations are sub-kinds of explanation by scientific (idealized) models. From that (...)
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  9. Phenomenological Laws and Mechanistic Explanations.Gabriel Siegel & Carl F. Craver - 2024 - Philosophy of Science 91 (1):132-150.
    In light of recent criticisms by Woodward (2017) and Rescorla (2018), we examine the relationship between mechanistic explanation and phenomenological laws. We disambiguate several uses of the phrase “phenomenological law” and show how a mechanistic theory of explanation sorts them into those that are and are not explanatory. We also distinguish the problem of phenomenological laws from arguments about the explanatory power of purely phenomenal models, showing that Woodward and Rescorla conflate these problems. Finally, we argue (...)
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  10. Heuristics, Descriptions, and the Scope of Mechanistic Explanation.Carlos Zednik - 2015 - In P. Braillard & C. Malaterre (eds.), Explanation in Biology. An Enquiry into the Diversity of Explanatory Patterns in the Life Sciences. Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 295-318.
    The philosophical conception of mechanistic explanation is grounded on a limited number of canonical examples. These examples provide an overly narrow view of contemporary scientific practice, because they do not reflect the extent to which the heuristic strategies and descriptive practices that contribute to mechanistic explanation have evolved beyond the well-known methods of decomposition, localization, and pictorial representation. Recent examples from evolutionary robotics and network approaches to biology and neuroscience demonstrate the increasingly important role played by (...)
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  11.  28
    Design principles and mechanistic explanation.W. Fang - 2022 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 44 (55).
    In this essay I propose that what design principles in systems biology and systems neuroscience do is to present abstract characterizations of mechanisms, and thereby facilitate mechanistic explanation. To show this, one design principle in systems neuroscience, i.e., the multilayer perceptron, is examined. However, Braillard (2010) contends that design principles provide a sort of non-mechanistic explanation due to two related reasons: they are very general and describe non-causal dependence relationships. In response to this, I argue that, (...)
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  12. Mechanisms without mechanistic explanation.Naftali Weinberger - 2019 - Synthese 196 (6):2323-2340.
    Some recent accounts of constitutive relevance have identified mechanism components with entities that are causal intermediaries between the input and output of a mechanism. I argue that on such accounts there is no distinctive inter-level form of mechanistic explanation and that this highlights an absence in the literature of a compelling argument that there are such explanations. Nevertheless, the entities that these accounts call ‘components’ do play an explanatory role. Studying causal intermediaries linking variables Xand Y provides knowledge (...)
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  13. Automaticity: Componential, causal, and mechanistic explanations. Annual Review of Psychology, 67, 263-287.Agnes Moors - 2016 - Annual Review of Psychology 67:263-287.
    The review first discusses componential explanations of automaticity, which specify non/automaticity features (e.g., un/controlled, un/conscious, non/efficient, fast/slow) and their interrelations. Reframing these features as factors that influence processes (e.g., goals, attention, and time) broadens the range of factors that can be considered (e.g., adding stimulus intensity and representational quality). The evidence reviewed challenges the view of a perfect coherence among goals, attention, and consciousness, and supports the alternative view that (a) these and other factors influence the quality of representations in (...)
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  14. Anatomy’s role in mechanistic explanations of organism behaviour.Aliya R. Dewey - 2024 - Synthese 203 (5):1-32.
    Explanations in behavioural neuroscience are often said to be mechanistic in the sense that they explain an organism’s behaviour by describing the activities and organisation of the organism’s parts that are “constitutively relevant” to organism behaviour. Much has been said about the constitutive relevance of working parts (in debates about the so-called “mutual manipulability criterion”), but relatively little has been said about the constitutive relevance of the organising relations between working parts. Some New Mechanists seem to endorse a simple (...)
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  15. Causal and Mechanistic Explanations, and a Lesson from Ecology.Viorel Pâslaru - 2015 - In Alexandru Manafu (ed.), The Prospects for Fusion Emergence. Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science, vol. 313: Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science, vol. 313.
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  16. Equilibrium explanation as structural non-mechanistic explanation: The case long-term bacterial persistence in human hosts.Javier Suárez & Roger Deulofeu - 2019 - Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 3 (38):95-120.
    Philippe Huneman has recently questioned the widespread application of mechanistic models of scientific explanation based on the existence of structural explanations, i.e. explanations that account for the phenomenon to be explained in virtue of the mathematical properties of the system where the phenomenon obtains, rather than in terms of the mechanisms that causally produce the phenomenon. Structural explanations are very diverse, including cases like explanations in terms of bowtie structures, in terms of the topological properties of the system, (...)
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  17. Open-Ended Control vs. Closed-Ended Control: Limits of Mechanistic Explanation.Jason Winning - manuscript
    Some recent discussions of mechanistic explanation have focused on control operations. But control is often associated with teleological or normative-sounding concepts like goals and set-points, prompting the question: Does an explanation that refers to parts or mechanisms “controlling” each other thereby fail to be mechanistic? In this paper I introduce and explain a distinction between what I call open-ended and closed-ended control operations. I then argue that explanations that enlist control operations to do explanatory work can (...)
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  18. A weakened mechanism is still a mechanism: On the causal role of absences in mechanistic explanation.Alexander Mebius - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 45 (1):43-48.
    Much contemporary debate on the nature of mechanisms centers on the issue of modulating negative causes. One type of negative causability, which I refer to as “causation by absence,” appears difficult to incorporate into modern accounts of mechanistic explanation. This paper argues that a recent attempt to resolve this problem, proposed by Benjamin Barros, requires improvement as it overlooks the fact that not all absences qualify as sources of mechanism failure. I suggest that there are a number of (...)
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  19. How and when are topological explanations complete mechanistic explanations? The case of multilayer network models.Beate Krickel, Leon de Bruin & Linda Douw - 2023 - Synthese 202 (1):1-21.
    The relationship between topological explanation and mechanistic explanation is unclear. Most philosophers agree that at least some topological explanations are mechanistic explanations. The crucial question is how to make sense of this claim. Zednik (Philos Psychol 32(1):23–51, 2019) argues that topological explanations are mechanistic if they (i) describe mechanism sketches that (ii) pick out organizational properties of mechanisms. While we agree with Zednik’s conclusion, we critically discuss Zednik’s account and show that it fails as a (...)
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  20. Biocomplexity: A pluralist research strategy is necessary for a mechanistic explanation of the "live" state.F. J. Bruggeman, H. V. Westerhoff & F. C. Boogerd - 2002 - Philosophical Psychology 15 (4):411 – 440.
    The biological sciences study (bio)complex living systems. Research directed at the mechanistic explanation of the "live" state truly requires a pluralist research program, i.e. BioComplexity research. The program should apply multiple intra-level and inter-level theories and methodologies. We substantiate this thesis with analysis of BioComplexity: metabolic and modular control analysis of metabolic pathways, emergence of oscillations, and the analysis of the functioning of glycolysis.
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  21. beyond the divide between indigenous and academic knowledge: Causal and mechanistic explanations in a Brazilian fishing community.Charbel N. El-Hani, Luana Poliseli & David Ludwig - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 1 (91):296–306.
    Transdisciplinary research challenges the divide between Indigenous and academic knowledge by bringing together epistemic resources of heterogeneous stakeholders. The aim of this article is to explore causal explanations in a traditional fishing community in Brazil that provide resources for transdisciplinary collaboration, without neglecting differences between Indigenous and academic experts. Semi-structured interviews were carried out in a fishing village in the North shore of Bahia and our findings show that community members often rely on causal explanations for local ecological phenomena with (...)
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  22. Mechanism, autonomy and biological explanation.Leonardo Bich & William Bechtel - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (6):1-27.
    The new mechanists and the autonomy approach both aim to account for how biological phenomena are explained. One identifies appeals to how components of a mechanism are organized so that their activities produce a phenomenon. The other directs attention towards the whole organism and focuses on how it achieves self-maintenance. This paper discusses challenges each confronts and how each could benefit from collaboration with the other: the new mechanistic framework can gain by taking into account what happens outside individual (...)
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  23. Mechanistic artefact explanation.Jeroen de Ridder - 2006 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 37 (1):81-96.
    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 (...)
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  24. A Regularist Approach to Mechanistic Type-Level Explanation.Beate Krickel - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (4):1123-1153.
    Most defenders of the new mechanistic approach accept ontic constraints for successful scientific explanation (Illari 2013; Craver 2014). The minimal claim is that scientific explanations have objective truthmakers, namely mechanisms that exist in the physical world independently of any observer and that cause or constitute the phenomena-to- be-explained. How can this idea be applied to type-level explanations? Many authors at least implicitly assume that in order for mechanisms to be the truthmakers of type-level explanation they need to (...)
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  25.  50
    Dissertation Abstract - Math Over Mechanism: Proposing the Rational-Relational Theory of Scientific Explanation in Light of Impinging Constraints of New Mechanism.Jenny Nielsen - forthcoming - In ProQuest.
    In this dissertation I achieve the following: (1) I present motivating criteria for a general comprehensive theory of scientific explanation. I review historical approaches to modeling explanation in light of these criteria. (2) I present New Mechanist Explanation ("NME") as the leading candidate for a contemporary, complete theory of scientific explanation. (3) I present constraints on the applicability of New Mechanism in modeling biology, chemistry, and physics. I argue for the unsuitability of NME as a candidate (...)
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  26.  99
    The Limits of New Mechanism as a General Theory of Scientific Explanation.Nielsen Jenny - forthcoming - Dissertation, University of Kansas
    Dissertation Prospectus. Exploring the limits of New Mechanism as a general theory of scientific explanation, limiting its scope and proposing constraints.
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  27. The mechanistic approach of The Theory of Island Biogeography and its current relevance.Viorel Pâslaru - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 45 (1):22-33.
    Philosophers of science have examined The Theory of Island Biogeography by Robert MacArthur and E. O. Wilson (1967) mainly due to its important contribution to modeling in ecology, but they have not examined it as a representative case of ecological explanation. In this paper, I scrutinize the type of explanation used in this paradigmatic work of ecology. I describe the philosophy of science of MacArthur and Wilson and show that it is mechanistic. Based on this account and (...)
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  28. The Metaphysics of Constitutive Mechanistic Phenomena.Marie I. Kaiser & Beate Krickel - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (3).
    The central aim of this article is to specify the ontological nature of constitutive mechanistic phenomena. After identifying three criteria of adequacy that any plausible approach to constitutive mechanistic phenomena must satisfy, we present four different suggestions, found in the mechanistic literature, of what mechanistic phenomena might be. We argue that none of these suggestions meets the criteria of adequacy. According to our analysis, constitutive mechanistic phenomena are best understood as what we will call ‘object-involving (...)
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  29. Mechanist idealisation in systems biology.Dingmar van Eck & Cory Wright - 2020 - Synthese 199 (1-2):1555-1575.
    This paper adds to the philosophical literature on mechanistic explanation by elaborating two related explanatory functions of idealisation in mechanistic models. The first function involves explaining the presence of structural/organizational features of mechanisms by reference to their role as difference-makers for performance requirements. The second involves tracking counterfactual dependency relations between features of mechanisms and features of mechanistic explanandum phenomena. To make these functions salient, we relate our discussion to an exemplar from systems biological research on (...)
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  30. The case for regularity in mechanistic causal explanation.Holly Andersen - 2012 - Synthese 189 (3):415-432.
    How regular do mechanisms need to be, in order to count as mechanisms? This paper addresses two arguments for dropping the requirement of regularity from the definition of a mechanism, one motivated by examples from the sciences and the other motivated by metaphysical considerations regarding causation. I defend a broadened regularity requirement on mechanisms that takes the form of a taxonomy of kinds of regularity that mechanisms may exhibit. This taxonomy allows precise explication of the degree and location of regular (...)
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  31. Decoupling Topological Explanations from Mechanisms.Daniel Kostic & Kareem Khalifa - 2023 - Philosophy of Science 90 (2):245 - 268.
    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 (...)
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  32. Mechanisms and psychological explanation.Cory Wright & William Bechtel - 2007 - In Paul Thagard (ed.), Handbook of the Philosophy of Psychology and Cognitive Science. Elsevier.
    As much as assumptions about mechanisms and mechanistic explanation have deeply affected psychology, they have received disproportionately little analysis in philosophy. After a historical survey of the influences of mechanistic approaches to explanation of psychological phenomena, we specify the nature of mechanisms and mechanistic explanation. Contrary to some treatments of mechanistic explanation, we maintain that explanation is an epistemic activity that involves representing and reasoning about mechanisms. We discuss the manner in (...)
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  33. Mechanistic Levels, Reduction, and Emergence.Mark Povich & Carl F. Craver - 2017 - In Stuart Glennan & Phyllis McKay Illari (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Mechanisms and Mechanical Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 185-97.
    We sketch the mechanistic approach to levels, contrast it with other senses of “level,” and explore some of its metaphysical implications. This perspective allows us to articulate what it means for things to be at different levels, to distinguish mechanistic levels from realization relations, and to describe the structure of multilevel explanations, the evidence by which they are evaluated, and the scientific unity that results from them. This approach is not intended to solve all metaphysical problems surrounding physicalism. (...)
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  34. On Nature and Normativity: Normativity, Teleology, and Mechanism in Biological Explanation.Lenny Moss & Daniel J. Nicholson - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43 (1):88-91.
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  35. Toward Mechanism 2.1: A Dynamic Causal Approach.Wei Fang - 2021 - Philosophy of Science 88 (5):796-809.
    I propose a dynamic causal approach to characterizing the notion of a mechanism. Levy and Bechtel, among others, have pointed out several critical limitations of the new mechanical philosophy, and pointed in a new direction to extend this philosophy. Nevertheless, they have not fully fleshed out what that extended philosophy would look like. Based on a closer look at neuroscientific practice, I propose that a mechanism is a dynamic causal system that involves various components interacting, typically nonlinearly, with one another (...)
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  36. The Mechanistic Approach to Psychiatric Classification.Elisabetta Sirgiovanni - 2009 - Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences 2 (2):45-49.
    A Kuhnian reformulation of the recent debate in psychiatric nosography suggested that the current psychiatric classification system (the DSM) is in crisis and that a sort of paradigm shift is awaited (Aragona, 2009). Among possible revolutionary alternatives, the proposed fi ve-axes etiopathogenetic taxonomy (Charney et al., 2002) emphasizes the primacy of the genotype over the phenomenological level as the relevant basis for psychiatric nosography. Such a position is along the lines of the micro-reductionist perspective of E. Kandel (1998, 1999), which (...)
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  37. The Concept of Mechanism in Biology.Daniel J. Nicholson - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43 (1):152-163.
    The concept of mechanism in biology has three distinct meanings. It may refer to a philosophical thesis about the nature of life and biology (‘mechanicism’), to the internal workings of a machine-like structure (‘machine mechanism’), or to the causal explanation of a particular phenomenon (‘causal mechanism’). In this paper I trace the conceptual evolution of ‘mechanism’ in the history of biology, and I examine how the three meanings of this term have come to be featured in the philosophy of (...)
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  38. Judging Mechanistic Neuroscience: A Preliminary Conceptual-Analytic Framework for Evaluating Scientific Evidence in the Courtroom.Jacqueline Anne Sullivan & Emily Baron - 2018 - Psychology, Crime and Law (00):00-00.
    The use of neuroscientific evidence in criminal trials has been steadily increasing. Despite progress made in recent decades in understanding the mechanisms of psychological and behavioral functioning, neuroscience is still in an early stage of development and its potential for influencing legal decision-making is highly contentious. Scholars disagree about whether or how neuroscientific evidence might impact prescriptions of criminal culpability, particularly in instances in which evidence of an accused’s history of mental illness or brain abnormality is offered to support a (...)
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  39. When mechanisms are not enough: The origin of eukaryotes and scientific explanation.Roger Deulofeu & Javier Suárez - 2018 - In Alexander Christian, David Hommen, Gerhard Schurz & N. Retzlaff (eds.), Philosophy of Science. European Studies in Philosophy of Science, vol 9. Dordrecht, Netherlands: pp. 95-115.
    The appeal to mechanisms in scientific explanation is commonplace in contemporary philosophy of science. In short, mechanists argue that an explanation of a phenomenon consists of citing the mechanism that brings the phenomenon about. In this paper, we present an argument that challenges the universality of mechanistic explanation: in explanations of the contemporary features of the eukaryotic cell, biologists appeal to its symbiogenetic origin and therefore the notion of symbiogenesis plays the main explanatory role. We defend (...)
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  40. Horizontal Surgicality and Mechanistic Constitution.Michael Baumgartner, Lorenzo Casini & Beate Krickel - 2020 - Erkenntnis 85:417-430.
    While ideal interventions are acknowledged by many as valuable tools for the analysis of causation, recent discussions have shown that, since there are no ideal interventions on upper-level phenomena that non-reductively supervene on their underlying mechanisms, interventions cannot—contrary to a popular opinion—ground an informative analysis of constitution. This has led some to abandon the project of analyzing constitution in interventionist terms. By contrast, this paper defines the notion of a horizontally surgical intervention, and argues that, when combined with some innocuous (...)
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  41. Topological Explanations: An Opinionated Appraisal.Daniel Kostić - 2022 - In I. Lawler, E. Shech & K. Khalifa (eds.), Scientific Understanding and Representation: Modeling in the Physical Sciences. Routledge. pp. 96-115.
    This chapter provides a systematic overview of topological explanations in the philosophy of science literature. It does so by presenting an account of topological explanation that I (Kostić and Khalifa 2021; Kostić 2020a; 2020b; 2018) have developed in other publications and then comparing this account to other accounts of topological explanation. Finally, this appraisal is opinionated because it highlights some problems in alternative accounts of topological explanations, and also it outlines responses to some of the main criticisms raised (...)
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  42. Biological Explanation.Angela Potochnik - 2013 - In Kostas Kampourakis (ed.), The Philosophy of Biology: A Companion for Educators. Springer. pp. 49-65.
    One of the central aims of science is explanation: scientists seek to uncover why things happen the way they do. This chapter addresses what kinds of explanations are formulated in biology, how explanatory aims influence other features of the field of biology, and the implications of all of this for biology education. Philosophical treatments of scientific explanation have been both complicated and enriched by attention to explanatory strategies in biology. Most basically, whereas traditional philosophy of science based (...) on derivation from scientific laws, there are many biological explanations in which laws play little or no role. Instead, the field of biology is a natural place to turn for support for the idea that causal information is explanatory. Biology has also been used to motivate mechanistic accounts of explanation, as well as criticisms of that approach. Ultimately, the most pressing issue about explanation in biology may be how to account for the wide range of explanatory styles encountered in the field. This issue is crucial, for the aims of biological explanation influence a variety of other features of the field of biology. Explanatory aims account for the continued neglect of some central causal factors, a neglect that would otherwise be mysterious. This is linked to the persistent use of models like evolutionary game theory and population genetic models, models that are simplified to the point of unreality. These explanatory aims also offer a way to interpret many biologists’ total commitment to one or another methodological approach, and the intense disagreements that result. In my view, such debates are better understood as arising not from different theoretical commitments, but commitments to different explanatory projects. Biology education would thus be enriched by attending to approaches to biological explanation, as well as the unexpected ways that these explanatory aims influence other features of biology. I suggest five lessons for teaching about explanation in biology that follow from the considerations of this chapter. (shrink)
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  43. Cascade versus Mechanism: The Diversity of Causal Structure in Science.Lauren N. Ross - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
    According to mainstream philosophical views causal explanation in biology and neuroscience is mechanistic. As the term ‘mechanism’ gets regular use in these fields it is unsurprising that philosophers consider it important to scientific explanation. What is surprising is that they consider it the only causal term of importance. This paper provides an analysis of a new causal concept—it examines the cascade concept in science and the causal structure it refers to. I argue that this concept is importantly (...)
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  44. Physical computation: a mechanistic account. [REVIEW]Joe Dewhurst - 2016 - Philosophical Psychology 29 (5):795-797.
    Physical Computation is the summation of Piccinini’s work on computation and mechanistic explanation over the past decade. It draws together material from papers published during that time, but also provides additional clarifications and restructuring that make this the definitive presentation of his mechanistic account of physical computation. This review will first give a brief summary of the account that Piccinini defends, followed by a chapter-by-chapter overview of the book, before finally discussing one aspect of the account in (...)
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  45. Introduction: Scientific Explanation Beyond Causation.Alexander Reutlinger & Juha Saatsi - 2018 - In Alexander Reutlinger & Juha Saatsi (eds.), Explanation Beyond Causation: Philosophical Perspectives on Non-Causal Explanations. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
    This is an introduction to the volume "Explanation Beyond Causation: Philosophical Perspectives on Non-Causal Explanations", edited by A. Reutlinger and J. Saatsi (OUP, forthcoming in 2017). -/- Explanations are very important to us in many contexts: in science, mathematics, philosophy, and also in everyday and juridical contexts. But what is an explanation? In the philosophical study of explanation, there is long-standing, influential tradition that links explanation intimately to causation: we often explain by providing accurate information about (...)
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  46. Function-Theoretic Explanation and the Search for Neural Mechanisms.Frances Egan - 2017 - In David Michael Kaplan (ed.), Explanation and Integration in Mind and Brain Science. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. pp. 145-163.
    A common kind of explanation in cognitive neuroscience might be called functiontheoretic: with some target cognitive capacity in view, the theorist hypothesizes that the system computes a well-defined function (in the mathematical sense) and explains how computing this function constitutes (in the system’s normal environment) the exercise of the cognitive capacity. Recently, proponents of the so-called ‘new mechanist’ approach in philosophy of science have argued that a model of a cognitive capacity is explanatory only to the extent that it (...)
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  47. Explanatory completeness and idealization in large brain simulations: a mechanistic perspective.Marcin Miłkowski - 2016 - Synthese 193 (5):1457-1478.
    The claim defended in the paper is that the mechanistic account of explanation can easily embrace idealization in big-scale brain simulations, and that only causally relevant detail should be present in explanatory models. The claim is illustrated with two methodologically different models: Blue Brain, used for particular simulations of the cortical column in hybrid models, and Eliasmith’s SPAUN model that is both biologically realistic and able to explain eight different tasks. By drawing on the mechanistic theory of (...)
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  48. Social intelligence: How to integrate research? A mechanistic perspective.Marcin Miłkowski - 2019 - AI and Society 34 (4):735-744.
    Is there a field of social intelligence? Many various disciplines approach the subject and it may only seem natural to suppose that different fields of study aim at explaining different phenomena; in other words, there is no special field of study of social intelligence. In this paper, I argue for an opposite claim. Namely, there is a way to integrate research on social intelligence, as long as one accepts the mechanistic account to explanation. Mechanistic integration of different (...)
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  49. Intention Recognition as the Mechanism of Human Communication.Daniel W. Harris - 2019 - In Arthur Sullivan (ed.), Sensations, Thoughts, and Language: Essays in Honor of Brian Loar. New York, NY: Routledge.
    Intentionalism is a research program that seeks to explain facts about meaning and communication in psychological terms, with our capacity for intention recognition playing a starring role. My aim here is to recommend a methodological reorientation in this program. Instead of a focus on intuitive counterexamples to proposals about necessary-and-sufficient conditions, we should aim to investigate the psychological mechanisms whose activities and interactions explain our capacity to communicate. Taking this methodologi- cal reorientation to heart, I sketch a theory of the (...)
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  50. Discovering Patterns: On the Norms of Mechanistic Inquiry.Lena Kästner & Philipp Haueis - forthcoming - Erkenntnis 3:1-26.
    What kinds of norms constrain mechanistic discovery and explanation? In the mechanistic literature, the norms for good explanations are directly derived from answers to the metaphysical question of what explanations are. Prominent mechanistic accounts thus emphasize either ontic or epistemic norms. Still, mechanistic philosophers on both sides agree that there is no sharp distinction between the processes of discovery and explanation. Thus, it seems reasonable to expect that ontic and epistemic accounts of explanation (...)
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