David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Synthese 177 (2):213-245 (2010)
This paper argues that besides mechanistic explanations, there is a kind of explanation that relies upon “topological” properties of systems in order to derive the explanandum as a consequence, and which does not consider mechanisms or causal processes. I first investigate topological explanations in the case of ecological research on the stability of ecosystems. Then I contrast them with mechanistic explanations, thereby distinguishing the kind of realization they involve from the realization relations entailed by mechanistic explanations, and explain how both kinds of explanations may be articulated in practice. The second section, expanding on the case of ecological stability, considers the phenomenon of robustness at all levels of the biological hierarchy in order to show that topological explanations are indeed pervasive there. Reasons are suggested for this, in which “neutral network” explanations are singled out as a form of topological explanation that spans across many levels. Finally, I appeal to the distinction of explanatory regimes to cast light on a controversy in philosophy of biology, the issue of contingence in evolution, which is shown to essentially involve issues about realization
|Keywords||Explanation Topology Mechanisms Evolutionary contingency Robustness Realization|
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References found in this work BETA
Carl F. Craver & William Bechtel (2007). Top-Down Causation Without Top-Down Causes. Biology and Philosophy 22 (4):547-563.
Michael Friedman (1974). Explanation and Scientific Understanding. Journal of Philosophy 71 (1):5-19.
Carl Gillett (2010). Moving Beyond the Subset Model of Realization: The Problem of Qualitative Distinctness in the Metaphysics of Science. Synthese 177 (2):165 - 192.
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Citations of this work BETA
Marco J. Nathan (2012). The Varieties of Molecular Explanation. Philosophy of Science 79 (2):233-254.
Nicholaos Jones (2014). Bowtie Structures, Pathway Diagrams, and Topological Explanation. Erkenntnis 79 (5):1135-1155.
Philippe Huneman (2013). Assessing Statistical Views of Natural Selection: Room for Non-Local Causation? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 44 (4):604-612.
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