Reducing psychology while maintaining its autonomy via mechanistic explanations

In M. Schouten & H. L. De Joong (eds.), The Matter of the Mind: Philosophical Essays on Psychology, Neuroscience and Reduction. Blackwell Publishing (2007)
Arguments for the autonomy of psychology or other higher-level sciences have often taken the form of denying the possibility of reduction. The form of reduction most proponents and critics of the autonomy of psychology have in mind is theory reduction. Mechanistic explanations provide a different perspective. Mechanistic explanations are reductionist insofar as they appeal to lower-level entities—the component parts of a mechanism and their operations— to explain a phenomenon. However, unlike theory reductions, mechanistic explanations also recognize the fundamental role of organization in enabling mechanisms to engage their environments as units (as well as the role of yet higher-level structures in constraining such engagement). Especially when organization is non-linear, it can enable mechanisms to generate phenomena that are quite surprising given the operations of the components taken in isolation. Such organization must be discovered—it cannot simply be derived from knowledge of lower-level parts and their operations. Moreover, the organized environments in which mechanisms operate must also be discovered. It is typically the higher-level disciplines that have the tools for discovering the organization within and between mechanisms. Although these inquiries are constrained by the knowledge of the parts and operations constituting the mechanism, they make their own autonomous contribution to understanding how a mechanism actually behaves. Thus, mechanistic explanations provide a strong sense of autonomy for higher levels of organization and the inquiries addressing them even while recognizing the distinctive contributions of reductionistic research investigating the operations of the lower level components.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 21,444
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

View all 14 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles
William Bechtel (2005). Explanation: A Mechanist Alternative. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biol and Biomed Sci 36 (2):421--441.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

243 ( #10,807 of 1,911,677 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

22 ( #29,900 of 1,911,677 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.