Plausibility versus richness in mechanistic models

Philosophical Psychology 26 (1):139-152 (2013)
In this paper we argue that in recent literature on mechanistic explanations, authors tend to conflate two distinct features that mechanistic models can have or fail to have: plausibility and richness. By plausibility, we mean the probability that a model is correct in the assertions it makes regarding the parts and operations of the mechanism, i.e., that the model is correct as a description of the actual mechanism. By richness, we mean the amount of detail the model gives about the actual mechanism. First, we argue that there is at least a conceptual reason to keep these two features distinct, since they can vary independently from each other: models can be highly plausible while providing almost no details, while they can also be highly detailed but plainly wrong. Next, focusing on Craver's continuum of ?how-possibly,? to ?how-plausibly,? to ?how-actually? models, we argue that the conflation of plausibility and richness is harmful to the discussion because it leads to the view that both are necessary for a model to have explanatory power, while in fact, richness is only so with respect to a mechanism's activities, not its entities. This point is illustrated with two examples of functional models
Keywords Explanation  mechanism  mechanistic explanation  plausibility  models  richness
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DOI 10.1080/09515089.2011.633693
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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.

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Citations of this work BETA
Dingmar van Eck (2015). Mechanistic Explanation in Engineering Science. European Journal for Philosophy of Science 5 (3):349-375.
Raoul Gervais & Erik Weber (2013). Inferential Explanations in Biology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (3):356-364.
Raoul Gervais & Erik Weber (2013). Inferential Explanations in Biology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (3):356-364.

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