A modified conception of mechanisms

Erkenntnis 71 (2):233 - 251 (2009)
Abstract
In this paper, I critique two conceptions of mechanisms, namely those put forth by Stuart Glennan (Erkenntnis 44:49–71, 1996; Philosophy of Science 69:S342–S353, 2002) and Machamer et al. (Philosophy of Science 67:1–25, 2000). Glennan’s conception, I argue, cannot account for mechanisms involving negative causation because of its interactionist posture. MDC’s view encounters the same problem due to its reificatory conception of activities—this conception, I argue, entails an onerous commitment to ontological dualism. In the place of Glennan and MDC, I propose a “modified conception” of mechanisms, which (a) obviates the problem of negative causation by reinterpreting MDC’s activities according to a “descriptivist” account, and (b) avoids MDC’s problem by postulating a monistic ontology of entities. Thus, by solving these problems, my modified conception offers a cogent, more adequate alternative to Glennan’s and MDC’s conceptions of mechanisms.
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    References found in this work BETA
    Jim Bogen (2004). Analysing Causality: The Opposite of Counterfactual is Factual. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 18 (1):3 – 26.
    Jim Bogen (2008). Causally Productive Activities. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 39 (1):112-123.

    View all 27 references

    Citations of this work BETA
    Daniel J. Nicholson (2012). The Concept of Mechanism in Biology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 43 (1):152-163.
    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: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 45:43-48.
    Phyllis Illari & Jon Williamson (2013). In Defence of Activities. Journal for General Philosophy of Science 44 (1):69-83.
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