The challenge of characterizing operations in the mechanisms underlying behavior

Abstract
Neuroscience and cognitive science seek to explain behavioral regularities in terms of underlying mechanisms. An important element of a mechanistic explanation is a characterization of the operations of the parts of the mechanism. The challenge in characterizing such operations is illustrated by an example from the history of physiological chemistry in which some investigators tried to characterize the internal operations in the same terms as the overall physiological system while others appealed to elemental chemistry. In order for biochemistry to become successful, researchers had to identify a new level of operations involving operations over molecular groups. Existing attempts at mechanistic explanation of behavior are in a situation comparable to earlier approaches to physiological chemistry, drawing their inspiration either from overall psychology activities or from low-level neural processes. Successful mechanistic explanations of behavior require the discovery of the appropriate component operations. Such discovery is a daunting challenge but one on which success will be beneficial to both behavioral scientists and cognitive and neuroscientists
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Patrice Soom (2012). Mechanisms, Determination and the Metaphysics of Neuroscience. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 43 (3):655-664.
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