David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Studies in History and Philosophy of Biol and Biomed Sci 36 (2):421--441 (2005)
Explanations in the life sciences frequently involve presenting a model of the mechanism taken to be responsible for a given phenomenon. Such explanations depart in numerous ways from nomological explanations commonly presented in philosophy of science. This paper focuses on three sorts of differences. First, scientists who develop mechanistic explanations are not limited to linguistic representations and logical inference; they frequently employ dia- grams to characterize mechanisms and simulations to reason about them. Thus, the epistemic resources for presenting mechanistic explanations are considerably richer than those suggested by a nomological framework. Second, the fact that mechanisms involve organized systems of component parts and operations provides direction to both the discovery and testing of mech- anistic explanations. Finally, models of mechanisms are developed for specific exemplars and are not represented in terms of universally quantified statements. Generalization involves investigating both the similarity of new exemplars to those already studied and the variations between them. Ó 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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Citations of this work BETA
David Michael Kaplan & Carl F. Craver (2011). The Explanatory Force of Dynamical and Mathematical Models in Neuroscience: A Mechanistic Perspective. Philosophy of Science 78 (4):601-627.
Arnon Levy & William Bechtel (2013). Abstraction and the Organization of Mechanisms. Philosophy of Science 80 (2):241-261.
William Bechtel (2011). Mechanism and Biological Explanation. Philosophy of Science 78 (4):533-557.
William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen (2010). Dynamic Mechanistic Explanation: Computational Modeling of Circadian Rhythms as an Exemplar for Cognitive Science. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (3):321-333.
Phyllis Illari & Jon Williamson (2012). What is a Mechanism? Thinking About Mechanisms Across the Sciences. European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (1):119-135.
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