David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
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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Citations of this work BETA
Robert W. Batterman & Collin C. Rice (2014). Minimal Model Explanations. Philosophy of Science 81 (3):349-376.
James Woodward (2013). Mechanistic Explanation: Its Scope and Limits. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 87 (1):39-65.
Collin Rice (2015). Moving Beyond Causes: Optimality Models and Scientific Explanation. Noûs 49 (3):589-615.
Eric Hochstein (2016). One Mechanism, Many Models: A Distributed Theory of Mechanistic Explanation. Synthese 193 (5):1387-1407.
Nicholaos Jones (2014). Bowtie Structures, Pathway Diagrams, and Topological Explanation. Erkenntnis 79 (5):1135-1155.
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