Beyond reduction: mechanisms, multifield integration and the unity of neuroscience

Philosophers of neuroscience have traditionally described interfield integration using reduction models. Such models describe formal inferential relations between theories at different levels. I argue against reduction and for a mechanistic model of interfield integration. According to the mechanistic model, different fields integrate their research by adding constraints on a multilevel description of a mechanism. Mechanistic integration may occur at a given level or in the effort to build a theory that oscillates among several levels. I develop this alternative model using a putative exemplar of reduction in contemporary neuroscience: the relationship between the psychological phenomena of learning and memory and the electrophysiological phenomenon known as Long-Term Potentiation. A new look at this historical episode reveals the relative virtues of the mechanistic model over reduction as an account of interfield integration.
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2005.03.008
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Daniel J. Nicholson (2012). The Concept of Mechanism in Biology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 43 (1):152-163.
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.
Cory D. Wright (2012). Mechanistic Explanation Without the Ontic Conception. European Journal of Philosophy of Science 2 (3):375-394.

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