David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Philosophy of the Social Sciences 34 (2):182-210 (2004)
This article addresses the following problems: What is a mechanism, how can it be discovered, and what is the role of the knowledge of mechanisms in scientific explanation and technological control? The proposed answers are these. A mechanism is one of the processes in a concrete system that makes it what it is for example, metabolism in cells, interneuronal connections in brains, work in factories and offices, research in laboratories, and litigation in courts of law. Because mechanisms are largely or totally imperceptible, they must be conjectured. Once hypothesized they help explain, because a deep scientific explanation is an answer to a question of the form, "How does it work, that is, what makes it tickwhat are its mechanisms?" Thus, by contrast with the subsumption of particulars under a generalization, an explanation proper consists in unveiling some lawful mechanism, as when political stability is explained by either coercion, public opinion manipulation, or democratic participation. Finding mechanisms satisfies not only the yearning for understanding, but also the need for control. Key Words: explanation function mechanism process system systemism.
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Citations of this work BETA
Jaakko Kuorikoski (2009). Two Concepts of Mechanism: Componential Causal System and Abstract Form of Interaction. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 23 (2):143 – 160.
Zenonas Norkus (2005). Mechanisms as Miracle Makers? The Rise and Inconsistencies of the "Mechanismic Approach" in Social Science and History. History and Theory 44 (3):348–372.
Keith R. Sawyer (2004). Social Explanation and Computational Simulation. Philosophical Explorations 7 (3):219 – 231.
Oliver Bakewell, Hein De Haas & Agnieszka Kubal (2013). Migration Systems, Pioneer Migrants and the Role of Agency. Journal of Critical Realism 11 (4):413 - 437.
Tuukka Kaidesoja (2009). Bhaskar and Bunge on Social Emergence. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 39 (3):300-322.
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