David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Philosophy of Science 68 (1):53-74 (2001)
Many areas of science develop by discovering mechanisms and role functions. Cummins' (1975) analysis of role functions-according to which an item's role function is a capacity of that item that appears in an analytic explanation of the capacity of some containing system-captures one important sense of "function" in the biological sciences and elsewhere. Here I synthesize Cummins' account with recent work on mechanisms and causal/mechanical explanation. The synthesis produces an analysis of specifically mechanistic role functions, one that uses the characteristic active, spatial, temporal, and hierarchical organization of mechanisms to add precision and content to Cummins' original suggestion. This synthesis also shows why the discovery of role functions is a scientific achievement. Discovering a role function (i) contributes to the interlevel integration of multilevel mechanisms, and (ii) provides a unique, contextual variety of causal/mechanical explanation
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Citations of this work BETA
Gualtiero Piccinini & Carl Craver (2011). Integrating Psychology and Neuroscience: Functional Analyses as Mechanism Sketches. Synthese 183 (3):283-311.
Mark B. Couch (2011). Mechanisms and Constitutive Relevance. Synthese 183 (3):375-388.
Gualtiero Piccinini (2010). The Mind as Neural Software? Understanding Functionalism, Computationalism, and Computational Functionalism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 81 (2):269-311.
Gualtiero Piccinini (2007). Computational Modeling Vs. Computational Explanation: Is Everything a Turing Machine, and Does It Matter to the Philosophy of Mind? Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (1):93 – 115.
Matteo Mossio, Cristian Saborido & Alvaro Moreno (2009). An Organizational Account of Biological Functions. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (4):813-841.
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