David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 41 (3):279-291 (2010)
In this paper, we compare the mechanisms of protein synthesis and natural selection. We identify three core elements of mechanistic explanation: functional individuation, hierarchical nestedness or decomposition, and organization. These are now well understood elements of mechanistic explanation in fields such as protein synthesis, and widely accepted in the mechanisms literature. But Skipper and Millstein have argued that natural selection is neither decomposable nor organized. This would mean that much of the current mechanisms literature does not apply to the mechanism of natural selection.We take each element of mechanistic explanation in turn. Having appreciated the importance of functional individuation, we show how decomposition and organization should be better understood in these terms. We thereby show that mechanistic explanation by protein synthesis and natural selection are more closely analogous than they appear—both possess all three of these core elements of a mechanism widely recognized in the mechanisms literature.
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Citations of this work BETA
Phyllis Illari & Jon Williamson (2012). What is a Mechanism? Thinking About Mechanisms Across the Sciences. European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (1):119-135.
Cory D. Wright (2012). Mechanistic Explanation Without the Ontic Conception. European Journal of Philosophy of Science 2 (3):375-394.
Olga Pombo (2015). Reconciling Ontic and Epistemic Constraints on Mechanistic Explanation, Epistemically. Axiomathes 25 (1):5-22.
Alexander Mebius (2014). A Weakened Mechanism Is Still A Mechanism: On the Causal Role of Absences in Mechanistic Explanation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 45 (1):43-48.
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