International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 23 (2):143 – 160 (2009)
|Abstract||Although there has been much recent discussion on mechanisms in philosophy of science and social theory, no shared understanding of the crucial concept itself has emerged. In this paper, a distinction between two core concepts of mechanism is made on the basis that the concepts correspond to two different research strategies: the concept of mechanism as a componential causal system is associated with the heuristic of functional decomposition and spatial localization and the concept of mechanism as an abstract form of interaction is associated with the strategy of abstraction and simple models. The causal facts assumed and the theoretical consequences entailed by an explanation with a given mechanism differ according to which concept of mechanism is in use. Research strategies associated with mechanism concepts also involve characteristic biases that should be taken into account when using them, especially in new areas of application|
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