Understanding endogenously active mechanisms: A scientific and philosophical challenge [Book Review]

Abstract   Although noting the importance of organization in mechanisms, the new mechanistic philosophers of science have followed most biologists in focusing primarily on only the simplest mode of organization in which operations are envisaged as occurring sequentially. Increasingly, though, biologists are recognizing that the mechanisms they confront are non-sequential and the operations nonlinear. To understand how such mechanisms function through time, they are turning to computational models and tools of dynamical systems theory. Recent research on circadian rhythms addressing both intracellular mechanisms and the intercellular networks in which these mechanisms are synchronized illuminates this point. This and other recent research in biology shows that the new mechanistic philosophers of science must expand their account of mechanistic explanation to incorporate computational modeling, yielding dynamical mechanistic explanations. Developing such explanations, however, is a challenge for both the scientists and the philosophers as there are serious tensions between mechanistic and dynamical approaches to science, and there are important opportunities for philosophers of science to contribute to surmounting these tensions. Content Type Journal Article Category Original paper in Philosophy of Science Pages 1-16 DOI 10.1007/s13194-012-0046-x Authors William Bechtel, Department of Philosophy, Center for Chronobiology, and Science Studies Program, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0119, USA Journal European Journal for Philosophy of Science Online ISSN 1879-4920 Print ISSN 1879-4912
Keywords New mechanistic philosophy of science  Dynamical mechanistic explanation  Computational modeling  Circadian rhythms  Dynamical systems theory  Non-sequential organization
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    References found in this work BETA
    William Bechtel (2005). Explanation: A Mechanist Alternative. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biol and Biomed Sci 36 (2):421--441.
    Stuart Glennan (2002). Rethinking Mechanistic Explanation. Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002 (3):S342-353.

    View all 14 references

    Citations of this work BETA
    Ingo Brigandt (2013). Systems Biology and the Integration of Mechanistic Explanation and Mathematical Explanation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):477-492.
    Tudor M. Baetu (2014). Models and the Mosaic of Scientific Knowledge. The Case of Immunology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 45:49-56.
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    William Bechtel (2013). From Molecules to Behavior and the Clinic: Integration in Chronobiology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):493-502.

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