David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
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|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
Wesley Salmon (1984). Scientific Explanation and the Causal Structure of the World. Princeton University Press.
Peter K. Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver (2000). Thinking About Mechanisms. Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
Carl F. Craver & William Bechtel (2007). Top-Down Causation Without Top-Down Causes. Biology and Philosophy 22 (4):547-563.
Daniel C. Dennett (1996). Darwin's Dangerous Idea. Behavior and Philosophy 24 (2):169-174.
Ron Amundson (2005). The Changing Role of the Embryo in Evolutionary Thought: Roots of Evo-Devo. Cambridge University Press.
Citations of this work BETA
Robert W. Batterman & Collin C. Rice (2014). Minimal Model Explanations. Philosophy of Science 81 (3):349-376.
Philippe Huneman (2014). Individuality as a Theoretical Scheme. I. Formal and Material Concepts of Individuality. Biological Theory 9 (4):361-373.
James Woodward (2013). Mechanistic Explanation: Its Scope and Limits. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 87 (1):39-65.
Nicholaos Jones (2014). Bowtie Structures, Pathway Diagrams, and Topological Explanation. Erkenntnis 79 (5):1135-1155.
Collin Rice (2015). Moving Beyond Causes: Optimality Models and Scientific Explanation. Noûs 49 (3):589-615.
Similar books and articles
Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther (2011). Part-Whole Science. Synthese 178 (3):397-427.
David Pineda (2011). Non-Committal Causal Explanations. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 24 (2):147-170.
Jani Raerinne (2011). Causal and Mechanistic Explanations in Ecology. Acta Biotheoretica 59 (3):251-271.
William Bechtel (2005). Explanation: A Mechanist Alternative. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biol and Biomed Sci 36 (2):421--441.
Matthew W. McKeon (2013). On the Rationale for Distinguishing Arguments From Explanations. Argumentation 27 (3):283-303.
Carlos Zednik (2011). The Nature of Dynamical Explanation. Philosophy of Science 78 (2):238-263.
Daniel Heussen (2011). When Functions and Causes Compete. Thinking and Reasoning 16 (3):233-250.
Joel Press (2009). Physical Explanations and Biological Explanations, Empirical Laws and a Priori Laws. Biology and Philosophy 24 (3):359-374.
Lei Zhong (2011). A Unificationist Vindication of Moral Explanation. Philosophical Forum 42 (2):131-146.
Karl-Dieter Opp (2005). Explanations by Mechanisms in the Social Sciences. Problems, Advantages and Alternatives. Mind and Society 4 (2):163-178.
Francisco J. Ayala (1970). Teleological Explanations in Evolutionary Biology. Philosophy of Science 37 (1):1-15.
Erik Weber & Jeroen Van Bouwel (2002). Symposium on Explanations and Social Ontology 3: Can We Dispense with Structural Explanations of Social Facts? Economics and Philosophy 18 (2):259-275.
Merrilee H. Salmon (2003). Causal Explanations of Behavior. Philosophy of Science 70 (4):720-738.
Added to index2010-12-08
Total downloads84 ( #39,917 of 1,726,249 )
Recent downloads (6 months)15 ( #48,707 of 1,726,249 )
How can I increase my downloads?