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William Bechtel [103]William P. Bechtel [52]W. Bechtel [2]
  1. William Bechtel, Romeo, René and the Reasons Why: What Explanation is, Forthcoming in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society.
    Suggests a functionalist account of explanation. This is a penultimate draft; the final version may differ.
     
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  2. William P. Bechtel, Mental Mechanisms: Philosophical Perspectives on the Sciences of Cognition and the Brain.
    1. The Naturalistic Turn in Philosophy of Science 2. The Framework of Mechanistic Explanation: Parts, Operations, and Organization 3. Representing and Reasoning About Mechanisms 4. Mental Mechanisms: Mechanisms that Process Information 5. Discovering Mental Mechanisms 6 . Summary.
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  3. William Bechtel & A. Abrahamsen, Mental Mechanisms, Autonomous Systems, and Moral Agency.
    Mechanistic explanations of cognitive activities are ubiquitous in cognitive science. Humanist critics often object that mechanistic accounts of the mind are incapable of accounting for the moral agency exhibited by humans. We counter this objection by offering a sketch of how the mechanistic perspective can accommodate moral agency. We ground our argument in the requirement that biological systems be active in order to maintain themselves in nonequilibrium conditions. We discuss such consequences as a role for mental mechanisms in controlling active (...)
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  4. Adele Abrahamsen & William Bechtel, From Reactive to Endogenously Active Dynamical Conceptions of the Brain.
    We contrast reactive and endogenously active perspectives on brain activity. Both have been pursued continuously in neurophysiology laboratories since the early 20thcentury, but the endogenous perspective has received relatively little attention until recently. One of the many successes of the reactive perspective was the identification, in the second half of the 20th century, of the distinctive contributions of different brain regions involved in visual processing. The recent prominence of the endogenous perspective is due to new findings of ongoing oscillatory activity (...)
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  5. William Bechtel (unknown). Diagrammatic Cognition: Discovery and Design. Cognitive Science 3:446-474.
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  6. William Bechtel, Referring to Localized Cognitive Operations in Parts of Dynamically Active Brains.
    The project of referring to localized cognitive operations in the brain has a long history and many impressive successes. It is a core element in the practice of giving mechanistic explanations of mental abilities. But it has also been challenged by prominent critics. One of the critics’ claims is that brain regions are not specialized for specific cognitive operations and any science that refers to them is misguided. Most recently this claim has been advanced by theorists promoting a dynamical-systems perspective (...)
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  7. William Bechtel, Representing Time of Day in Circadian Clocks.
    Positing representations and operations on them as a way of explaining behavior was one of the major innovations of the cognitive revolution. Neuroscience and biology more generally also employ representations in explaining how organisms function and coordinate their behavior with the world around them. In discussions of the nature of representation, theorists commonly differentiate between the vehicles of representation and their content—what they denote. Many contentious debates in cognitive science, such as those pitting neural network models against symbol processing accounts, (...)
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  8. William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen (unknown). Explaining Human Freedom and Dignity Mechanistically: From Receptive to Active Mechanisms. :43-66.
    Mechanistic explanation is the dominant approach to explanation in the life sciences, but it has been challenged as incompatible with a conception of humans as agents whose capacity for self-direction endows them with freedom and dignity. We argue that the mechanical philosophy, properly construed, has sufficient resources to explain how such characteristics can arise in a material world. Biological mechanisms must be regarded as active, not only reactive, and as organized so as to maintain themselves far from thermodynamic equilibrium. Notions (...)
     
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  9. William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen, Understanding the Brain as an Endogenously Active Mechanism.
    Although a reactive framework has long been dominant in cognitive science and neuroscience, an alternative framework emphasizing dynamics and endogenous activity has recently gained prominence. We review some of the evidence for endogenous activity and consider the implications not only for understanding cognition but also for accounts of explanation offered by philosophers of science. Our recent characterization of dynamic mechanistic explanation emphasizes the coordination of accounts of mechanisms that identify parts and operations with computational models of their activity. These can, (...)
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  10. William Bechtel & Benjamin Sheredos, HIT on the Psychometric Approach.
    Traditionally, identity and supervenience have been proposed in philosophy of mind as metaphysical accounts of how mental activities (fully understood, as they might be at the end of science) relate to brain processes. Kievet et al. suggest that to be relevant to cognitive neuroscience, these philosophical positions must make empirically testable claims and be evaluated accordingly – they cannot sit on the sidelines, awaiting the hypothetical completion of cognitive neuroscience. We agree with the authors on the importance of rendering these (...)
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  11. William Bechtel, Molecules, Systems, and Behavior: Another View of Memory Consolidation.
    From its genesis in the 1960s, the focus of inquiry in neuroscience has been on the cellular and molecular processes underlying neural activity. In this pursuit neuroscience has been enormously successful. Like any successful scientific inquiry, initial successes have raised new questions that inspire ongoing research. While there is still much that is not known about the molecular processes in brains, a great deal of very important knowledge has been secured, especially in the last 50 years. It has also attracted (...)
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  12. William Bechtel, Some Virtues of Modeling with Both Hands.
    Webb distinguishes two endeavors she calls animal modeling and animat modeling and advocates for the former. I share her preference and point to additional virtues of modeling actual biological mechanisms (animal modeling). As Webb argues, animat modeling should be regarded as modeling of specific, but madeup, biological mechanisms. I contend that modeling made-up mechanisms in situations in which we have some knowledge of the actual mechanisms involved is modeling with one hand—the good one—tied behind one’s back.1 The hand that is (...)
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  13. William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen, Complex Biological Mechanisms: Cyclic, Oscillatory, and Autonomous.
    The mechanistic perspective has dominated biological disciplines such as biochemistry, physiology, cell and molecular biology, and neuroscience, especially during the 20th century. The primary strategy is reductionist: organisms are to be decomposed into component parts and operations at multiple levels. Researchers adopting this perspective have generated an enormous body of information about the mechanisms of life at scales ranging from the whole organism down to genetic and other molecular operations.
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  14. William Bechtel (forthcoming). Investigating Neural Representations: The Tale of Place Cells. Synthese:1-35.
    While neuroscientists often characterize brain activity as representational, many philosophers have construed these accounts as just theorists’ glosses on the mechanism. Moreover, philosophical discussions commonly focus on finished accounts of explanation, not research in progress. I adopt a different perspective, considering how characterizations of neural activity as representational contributes to the development of mechanistic accounts, guiding the investigations neuroscientists pursue as they work from an initial proposal to a more detailed understanding of a mechanism. I develop one illustrative example involving (...)
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  15. William Bechtel (forthcoming). Perspectives on Mental Models. Behaviorism.
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  16. William P. Bechtel (forthcoming). The Epistemology of Evidence in Cognitive Neuroscience. In R. Skipper Jr, C. Allen, R. A. Ankeny, C. F. Craver, L. Darden, G. Mikkelson & and R. Richardson (eds.), Philosophy and the Life Sciences: A Reader. Mit Press.
    It is no secret that scientists argue. They argue about theories. But even more, they argue about the evidence for theories. Is the evidence itself trustworthy? This is a bit surprising from the perspective of traditional empiricist accounts of scientific methodology according to which the evidence for scientific theories stems from observation, especially observation with the naked eye. These accounts portray the testing of scientific theories as a matter of comparing the predictions of the theory with the data generated by (...)
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  17. Baracchi Claudia & William Bechtel (forthcoming). Allan, George. The Patterns of the Present: Interpreting the Authority of Form. Albany: SUNY, 2001. $19.95 Pb. Allen, Richard and Malcolm Turvey, Eds. Wittgenstein, Theory and the Arts. New York: Routledge, 2001. $73.00 Almog, Joseph. What Am I? Descartes and the Mind-Body Problem. New York: Oxford University Press. [REVIEW] Philosophy Today.
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  18. Benjamin Sheredos, Daniel Burnston, Adele Abrahamsen & William Bechtel (2014). Why Do Biologists Use So Many Diagrams? Philosophy of Science 80 (5):931-944.
    Diagrams have distinctive characteristics that make them an effective medium for communicating research findings, but they are even more impressive as tools for scientific reasoning. To explore this role, we examine diagrammatic formats that have been devised by biologists to (a) identify and illuminate phenomena involving circadian rhythms and (b) develop and modify mechanistic explanations of these phenomena.
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  19. William Bechtel (2013). From Molecules to Behavior and the Clinic: Integration in Chronobiology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):493-502.
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  20. William Bechtel (2013). From Molecules to Networks: Adoption of Systems Approaches in Circadian Rhythm Research. In. In Hanne Andersen, Dennis Dieks, Wenceslao González, Thomas Uebel & Gregory Wheeler (eds.), New Challenges to Philosophy of Science. Springer Verlag. 211--223.
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  21. William Bechtel (2013). The Endogenously Active Brain: The Need for an Alternative Cognitive Architecture. Philosophia Scientiae 17:3-30.
    La plupart des projets d’architectures cognitives dans les sciences cognitives et des explications des processus cérébraux dans les neurosciences interprètent l’esprit/cerveau comme réactif : le processus est déclenché par un stimulus et se termine par une réponse. Mais il y a de plus en plus de données laissant penser que le cerveau est endogéniquement actif : des oscillations de l’activité électrochimique à de multiples fréquences ont lieu dans le cerveau même en l’absence de stimuli et ceux-ci servent plutôt à moduler (...)
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  22. William Bechtel & Adele A. Abrahamsen (2013). Thinking Dynamically About Biological Mechanisms: Networks of Coupled Oscillators. [REVIEW] Foundations of Science 18 (4):707-723.
    Explaining the complex dynamics exhibited in many biological mechanisms requires extending the recent philosophical treatment of mechanisms that emphasizes sequences of operations. To understand how nonsequentially organized mechanisms will behave, scientists often advance what we call dynamic mechanistic explanations. These begin with a decomposition of the mechanism into component parts and operations, using a variety of laboratory-based strategies. Crucially, the mechanism is then recomposed by means of computational models in which variables or terms in differential equations correspond to properties of (...)
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  23. Arnon Levy & William Bechtel (2013). Abstraction and the Organization of Mechanisms. Philosophy of Science 80 (2):241-261.
  24. Adele Abrahamsen & William Bechtel (2012). History and Core Themes. In Keith Frankish & William Ramsey (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Cognitive Science. Cambridge University Press. 9.
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  25. William Bechtel (2012). Identity, Reduction, and Conserved Mechanisms: Perspectives From Circadian Rhythm Research. In Hill Christopher & Gozzano Simone (eds.), New Perspectives on Type Identity: The Mental and the Physical. Cambridge University Press. 43.
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  26. William Bechtel, Understanding Biological Mechanisms: Using Illustrations From Circadian Rhythm Research.
    In many fields of biology, researchers explain a phenomenon by characterizing the responsible mechanism. This requires identifying the candidate mechanism, decomposing it into its parts and operations, recomposing it so as to understand how it is organized and its operations orchestrated to generate the phenomenon, and situating it in its environment. Mechanistic researchers have developed sophisticated tools for decomposing mechanisms but new approaches, including modeling, are increasingly being invoked to recompose mechanisms when they involve nonsequential organization of nonlinear operations. The (...)
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  27. William Bechtel (2012). Understanding Endogenously Active Mechanisms: A Scientific and Philosophical Challenge. [REVIEW] European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (2):233-248.
    Abstract Although noting the importance of organization in mechanisms, the new mechanistic philosophers of science have followed most biologists in focusing primarily on only the simplest mode of organization in which operations are envisaged as occurring sequentially. Increasingly, though, biologists are recognizing that the mechanisms they confront are non-sequential and the operations nonlinear. To understand how such mechanisms function through time, they are turning to computational models and tools of dynamical systems theory. Recent research on circadian rhythms addressing both intracellular (...)
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  28. William Bechtel (2011). Mechanism and Biological Explanation. Philosophy of Science 78 (4):533-557.
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  29. Mitchell Herschbach & William Bechtel (2011). Relating Bayes to Cognitive Mechanisms. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 34 (4):202-203.
    We support Enlightenment Bayesianism's commitment to grounding Bayesian analysis in empirical details of psychological and neural mechanisms. Recent philosophical accounts of mechanistic science illuminate some of the challenges this approach faces. In particular, mechanistic decomposition of mechanisms into their component parts and operations gives rise to a notion of levels distinct from and more challenging to accommodate than Marr's.
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  30. David M. Kaplan & William Bechtel (2011). Dynamical Models: An Alternative or Complement to Mechanistic Explanations? Topics in Cognitive Science 3 (2):438-444.
    Abstract While agreeing that dynamical models play a major role in cognitive science, we reject Stepp, Chemero, and Turvey's contention that they constitute an alternative to mechanistic explanations. We review several problems dynamical models face as putative explanations when they are not grounded in mechanisms. Further, we argue that the opposition of dynamical models and mechanisms is a false one and that those dynamical models that characterize the operations of mechanisms overcome these problems. By briefly considering examples involving the generation (...)
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  31. William Bechtel (2010). The Cell: Locus or Object of Inquiry? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 41 (3):172-182.
    Research in many fields of biology has been extremely successful in decomposing biological mechanisms to discover their parts and operations. It often remains a significant challenge for scientists to recompose these mechanisms to understand how they function as wholes and interact with the environments around them. This is true of the eukaryotic cell. Although initially identified in nineteenth-century cell theory as the fundamental unit of organisms, researchers soon learned how to decompose it into its organelles and chemical constituents and have (...)
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  32. William Bechtel (2010). The Downs and Ups of Mechanistic Research: Circadian Rhythm Research as an Exemplar. [REVIEW] Erkenntnis 73 (3):313 - 328.
    In the context of mechanistic explanation, reductionistic research pursues a decomposition of complex systems into their component parts and operations. Using research on the mechanisms responsible for circadian rhythms, I consider both the gains that have been made by discovering genes and proteins that figure in these intracellular oscillators and also highlight the increasingly recognized need to understand higher-level integration, both between cells in the central oscillator and between the central and peripheral oscillators. This history illustrates a common need to (...)
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  33. William Bechtel (2010). How Can Philosophy Be a True Cognitive Science Discipline? Topics in Cognitive Science 2 (3):357-366.
    Although philosophy has been only a minor contributor to cognitive science to date, this paper describes two projects in naturalistic philosophy of mind and one in naturalistic philosophy of science that have been pursued during the past 30 years and that can make theoretical and methodological contributions to cognitive science. First, stances on the mind–body problem (identity theory, functionalism, and heuristic identity theory) are relevant to cognitive science as it negotiates its relation to neuroscience and cognitive neuroscience. Second, analyses of (...)
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  34. William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen (2010). Dynamic Mechanistic Explanation: Computational Modeling of Circadian Rhythms as an Exemplar for Cognitive Science. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (3):321-333.
    Two widely accepted assumptions within cognitive science are that (1) the goal is to understand the mechanisms responsible for cognitive performances and (2) computational modeling is a major tool for understanding these mechanisms. The particular approaches to computational modeling adopted in cognitive science, moreover, have significantly affected the way in which cognitive mechanisms are understood. Unable to employ some of the more common methods for conducting research on mechanisms, cognitive scientists’ guiding ideas about mechanism have developed in conjunction with their (...)
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  35. William Bechtel, Marlene Behrmann, Nick Chater, Robert J. Glushko, Robert L. Goldstone & Paul Smolensky (2010). The Rumelhart Prize at 10. Cognitive Science 34 (5):713-715.
  36. William Bechtel & Mitchell Herschbach (2010). Philosophy of the Cognitive Sciences. In Fritz Allhoff (ed.), Philosophies of the Sciences. Wiley-Blackwell. 239--261.
    Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary research endeavor focusing on human cognitive phenomena such as memory, language use, and reasoning. It emerged in the second half of the 20th century and is charting new directions at the beginning of the 21st century. This chapter begins by identifying the disciplines that contribute to cognitive science and reviewing the history of the interdisciplinary engagements that characterize it. The second section examines the role that mechanistic explanation plays in cognitive science, while the third focuses (...)
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  37. William Bechtel (2009). Constructing a Philosophy of Science of Cognitive Science. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 1 (3):548-569.
    Philosophy of science is positioned to make distinctive contributions to cognitive science by providing perspective on its conceptual foundations and by advancing normative recommendations. The philosophy of science I embrace is naturalistic in that it is grounded in the study of actual science. Focusing on explanation, I describe the recent development of a mechanistic philosophy of science from which I draw three normative consequences for cognitive science. First, insofar as cognitive mechanisms are information-processing mechanisms, cognitive science needs an account of (...)
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  38. William Bechtel (2009). Explanation: Mechanism, Modularity, and Situated Cognition. In Murat Aydede & P. Robbins (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Situated Cognition. Cambridge. 155--170.
  39. William Bechtel (2009). Generalization and Discovery by Assuming Conserved Mechanisms: Cross‐Species Research on Circadian Oscillators. Philosophy of Science 76 (5):762-773.
    In many domains of biology, explanation takes the form of characterizing the mechanism responsible for a particular phenomenon in a specific biological system. How are such explanations generalized? One important strategy assumes conservation of mechanisms through evolutionary descent. But conservation is seldom complete. In the case discussed, the central mechanism for circadian rhythms in animals was first identified in Drosophila and then extended to mammals. Scientists' working assumption that the clock mechanisms would be conserved both yielded important generalizations and served (...)
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  40. William Bechtel (2009). Looking Down, Around, and Up: Mechanistic Explanation in Psychology. Philosophical Psychology 22 (5):543-564.
    Accounts of mechanistic explanation have emphasized the importance of looking down—decomposing a mechanism into its parts and operations. Using research on visual processing as an exemplar, I illustrate how productive such research has been. But once multiple components of a mechanism have been identified, researchers also need to figure out how it is organized—they must look around and determine how to recompose the mechanism. Although researchers often begin by trying to recompose the mechanism in terms of sequential operations, they frequently (...)
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  41. William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen (2009). Decomposing, Recomposing, and Situating Circadian Mechanisms: Three Tasks in Developing Mechanistic Explanations. In H. Leitgeb & A. Hieke (eds.), Reduction: Between the Mind and the Brain. Ontos. 12--177.
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  42. William Bechtel & Cory D. Wright (2009). What is Psychological Explanation? In P. Calvo & J. Symons (eds.), Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Psychology. Routledge. 113--130.
    Due to the wide array of phenomena that are of interest to them, psychologists offer highly diverse and heterogeneous types of explanations. Initially, this suggests that the question "What is psychological explanation?" has no single answer. To provide appreciation of this diversity, we begin by noting some of the more common types of explanations that psychologists provide, with particular focus on classical examples of explanations advanced in three different areas of psychology: psychophysics, physiological psychology, and information-processing psychology. To analyze what (...)
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  43. David Etlin, Maarten Van Dyck, Phil Dowe, Julian Reiss, Thomas Ac Reydon, Sabina Leonelli, Marshall Abrams, William Bechtel, Joshua Filler & Yoichi Ishida (2009). 10. The Problem of Noncounterfactual Conditionals The Problem of Noncounterfactual Conditionals (Pp. 676-688). Philosophy of Science 76 (5).
     
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  44. W. Bechtel (2008). L'épistémologie des données en neurosciences cognitives. In Pierre Poirier & Luc Faucher (eds.), Des Neurones a la Philosophie: Neurophilosophie Et Philosophie des Neurosciences. Éditions Syllepse. 91--118.
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  45. William Bechtel (2008). Mechanisms in Cognitive Psychology: What Are the Operations? Philosophy of Science 75 (5):983-994.
    Cognitive psychologists, like biologists, frequently describe mechanisms when explaining phenomena. Unlike biologists, who can often trace material transformations to identify operations, psychologists face a more daunting task in identifying operations that transform information. Behavior provides little guidance as to the nature of the operations involved. While not itself revealing the operations, identification of brain areas involved in psychological mechanisms can help constrain attempts to characterize the operations. In current memory research, evidence that the same brain areas are involved in what (...)
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  46. William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen (2008). From Reduction Back to Higher Levels. In. In B. C. Love, K. McRae & V. M. Sloutsky (eds.), Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Cognitive Science Society. 559--564.
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  47. William Bechtel (2007). In Search of Mitochondrial Mechanisms: Interfield Excursions Between Cell Biology and Biochemistry. Journal of the History of Biology 40 (1):1 - 33.
    Developing models of biological mechanisms, such as those involved in respiration in cells, often requires collaborative effort drawing upon techniques developed and information generated in different disciplines. Biochemists in the early decades of the 20th century uncovered all but the most elusive chemical operations involved in cellular respiration, but were unable to align the reaction pathways with particular structures in the cell. During the period 1940-1965 cell biology was emerging as a new discipline and made distinctive contributions to understanding the (...)
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  48. William Bechtel (2007). Reducing Psychology While Maintaining its Autonomy Via Mechanistic Explanations. In M. Schouten & H. L. De Joong (eds.), The Matter of the Mind: Philosophical Essays on Psychology, Neuroscience and Reduction. Blackwell Publishing.
    Arguments for the autonomy of psychology or other higher-level sciences have often taken the form of denying the possibility of reduction. The form of reduction most proponents and critics of the autonomy of psychology have in mind is theory reduction. Mechanistic explanations provide a different perspective. Mechanistic explanations are reductionist insofar as they appeal to lower-level entities—the component parts of a mechanism and their operations— to explain a phenomenon. However, unlike theory reductions, mechanistic explanations also recognize the fundamental role of (...)
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  49. William Bechtel (2007). Top-Down Causation Without Top-Down Causes. Biology and Philosophy 22 (4):547-563.
  50. William P. Bechtel & Andrew Hamilton (2007). Reduction, Integration, and the Unity of Science: Natural, Behavioral, and Social Sciences and the Humanities. In T. Kuipers (ed.), Philosophy of Science: Focal Issues (Volume 1 of the Handbook of the Philosophy of Science). Elsevier.
    1. A Historical Look at Unity 2. Field Guide to Modern Concepts of Reduction and Unity 3. Kitcher's Revisionist Account of Unification 4. Critics of Unity 5. Integration Instead of Unity 6. Reduction via Mechanisms 7. Case Studies in Reduction and Unification across the Disciplines.
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