What was Hodgkin and Huxley's Achievement?

The Hodgkin–Huxley (HH) model of the action potential is a theoretical pillar of modern neurobiology. In a number of recent publications, Carl Craver ([2006], [2007], [2008]) has argued that the model is explanatorily deficient because it does not reveal enough about underlying molecular mechanisms. I offer an alternative picture of the HH model, according to which it deliberately abstracts from molecular specifics. By doing so, the model explains whole-cell behaviour as the product of a mass of underlying low-level events. The issue goes beyond cellular neurobiology, for the strategy of abstraction exhibited in the HH case is found in a range of biological contexts. I discuss why it has been largely neglected by advocates of the mechanist approach to explanation. 1 Introduction2 A Primer on the HH Model2.1 The basic qualitative picture2.2 The quantitative model3 Interlude: What Did Hodgkin and Huxley Think?4 Craver’s View4.1 Mechanistic explanation4.2 Sketches4.3 Craver's view: The HH model as a mechanism sketch5 An Alternative View of the HH Model5.1 Another look at the equations5.2 The discrete-gating picture5.3 The road paved by Hodgkin and Huxley5.4 Summary and comparison to Craver6 Conclusion: The HH Model and Mechanistic Explanation6.1 Sketches and abstractions6.2 Why has aggregative abstraction been overlooked?
Keywords Explanation in Neuroscience  Action potentials  Abstraction  Mechanisms
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1093/bjps/axs043
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive Arnon Levy, What was Hodgkin and Huxley's Achievement?
External links
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

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Ingo Brigandt (2013). Systems Biology and the Integration of Mechanistic Explanation and Mathematical Explanation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):477-492.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Phyllis McKay Illari & Jon Williamson (2011). Mechanisms Are Real and Local. In Phyllis McKay Illari, Federica Russo & Jon Williamson (eds.), Causality in the Sciences. OUP Oxford

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

338 ( #2,661 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

156 ( #4,159 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.