In Minds, Brains, and Norms, Pardo and Patterson deny that the activities of persons (knowledge, rule-following, interpretation) can be understood exclusively in terms of the brain, and thus conclude that neuroscience is irrelevant to the law, and to the conceptual and philosophical questions that arise in legal contexts. On their view, such appeals to neuroscience are an exercise in nonsense. We agree that understanding persons requires more than understanding brains, but we deny their pessimistic conclusion. Whether neuroscience can be used (...) to address legal issues is an empirical question. Recent work on locked-in syndrome, memory, and lying suggests that neuroscience has potential relevance to the law, and is far from nonsensical. Through discussion of neuroscientific methods and these recent results we show how an understanding of the subpersonal mechanisms that underlie person-level abilities could serve as a valuable and illuminating source of evidence in legal and social contexts. In so doing, we sketch the way forward for a no-nonsense approach to the intersection of law and neuroscience. (shrink)
What distinguishes good explanations in neuroscience from bad? Carl F. Craver constructs and defends standards for evaluating neuroscientific explanations that are grounded in a systematic view of what neuroscientific explanations are: descriptions of multilevel mechanisms. In developing this approach, he draws on a wide range of examples in the history of neuroscience (e.g. Hodgkin and Huxley's model of the action potential and LTP as a putative explanation for different kinds of memory), as well as recent philosophical work on the nature (...) of scientific explanation. Readers in neuroscience, psychology, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of science will find much to provoke and stimulate them in this book. (shrink)
It is common to defend the Homeostatic Property Cluster ( HPC ) view as a third way between conventionalism and essentialism about natural kinds ( Boyd , 1989, 1991, 1997, 1999; Griffiths , 1997, 1999; Keil , 2003; Kornblith , 1993; Wilson , 1999, 2005; Wilson , Barker , & Brigandt , forthcoming ). According to the HPC view, property clusters are not merely conventionally clustered together; the co-occurrence of properties in the cluster is sustained by a similarity generating ( (...) or homeostatic ) mechanism . I argue that conventional elements are involved partly but ineliminably in deciding which mechanisms define kinds , for deciding when two mechanisms are mechanisms of the same type, and for deciding where one particular mechanism ends and another begins. This intrusion of conventional perspective into the idea of a mechanism raises doubts as to whether the HPC view is sufficiently free of conventional elements to serve as an objective arbiter in scientific disputes about what the kinds of the special sciences should be. (shrink)
Hodgkin and Huxley’s model of the action potential is an apparent dream case of covering‐law explanation in biology. The model includes laws of physics and chemistry that, coupled with details about antecedent and background conditions, can be used to derive features of the action potential. Hodgkin and Huxley insist that their model is not an explanation. This suggests either that subsuming a phenomenon under physical laws is insufficient to explain it or that Hodgkin and Huxley were wrong. I defend Hodgkin (...) and Huxley against Weber’s heteronomy thesis and argue that explanations are descriptions of mechanisms. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, Philosophy‐Neuroscience‐Psychology Program, Washington University in St. Louis, One Brookings Drive, Wilson Hall, St. Louis, MO 63130; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
We argue that neuroeconomics should be a mechanistic science. We defend this view as preferable both to a revolutionary perspective, according to which classical economics is eliminated in favour of neuroeconomics, and to a classical economic perspective, according to which economics is insulated from facts about psychology and neuroscience. We argue that, like other mechanistic sciences, neuroeconomics will earn its keep to the extent that it either reconfigures how economists think about decision-making or how neuroscientists think about brain mechanisms underlying (...) behaviour. We discuss some ways that the search for mechanisms can bring about such top-down and bottom-up revision, and we consider some examples from the recent neuroeconomics literature of how varieties of progress of this sort might be achieved. (shrink)
We argue that intelligible appeals to interlevel causes (top-down and bottom-up) can be understood, without remainder, as appeals to mechanistically mediated effects. Mechanistically mediated effects are hybrids of causal and constitutive relations, where the causal relations are exclusively intralevel. The idea of causation would have to stretch to the breaking point to accommodate interlevel causes. The notion of a mechanistically mediated effect is preferable because it can do all of the required work without appealing to mysterious interlevel causes. When interlevel (...) causes can be translated into mechanistically mediated effects, the posited relationship is intelligible and should raise no special philosophical objections. When they cannot, they are suspect. (shrink)
Not all models are explanatory. Some models are data summaries. Some models sketch explanations but leave crucial details unspecified or hidden behind filler terms. Some models are used to conjecture a how-possibly explanation without regard to whether it is a how-actually explanation. I use the Hodgkin and Huxley model of the action potential to illustrate these ways that models can be useful without explaining. I then use the subsequent development of the explanation of the action potential to show what is (...) required of an adequate mechanistic model. Mechanistic models are explanatory. (shrink)
For the greater part of the last 50 years, it has been common for philosophers of mind and cognitive scientists to invoke the notion of realization in discussing the relationship between the mind and the brain. In traditional philosophy of mind, mental states are said to be realized, instantiated, or implemented in brain states. Artificial intelligence is sometimes described as the attempt either to model or to actually construct systems that realize some of the same psychological abilities that we and (...) other living creatures possess. The claim that specific psychological. (shrink)
It is a common assumption in contemporary cognitive neuroscience that discovering a putative realized kind to be dissociably realized (i.e., to be realized in each instance by two or more distinct realizers) mandates splitting that kind. Here I explore some limits on this inference using two deceptively similar examples: the dissociation of declarative and procedural memory and Ramachandran's argument that the self is an illusion.
Long-Term Potentiation (LTP) is a kind of synaptic plasticity that many contemporary neuroscientists believe is a component in mechanisms of memory. This essay describes the discovery of LTP and the development of the LTP research program. The story begins in the 1950's with the discovery of synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus (a medial temporal lobe structure now associated with memory), and it ends in 1973 with the publication of three papers sketching the future course of the LTP research program. The (...) making of LTP was a protracted affair. Hippocampal synaptic plasticity was initially encountered as an experimental tool, then reported as a curiosity, and finally included in the ontic store of the neurosciences. Early researchers were not investigating the hippocampus in search of a memory mechanism; rather, they saw the hippocampus as a useful experimental model or as a structure implicated in the etiology of epilepsy. The link between hippocampal synaptic plasticity and learning or memory was a separate conceptual achievement. That link was formulated in at least three different ways at different times: reductively (claiming that plasticity is identical to learning), analogically (claiming that plasticity is an example or model of learning), and mechanistically (claiming that plasticity is a component in learning or memory mechanisms). The hypothesized link with learning or memory, coupled with developments in experimental techniques and preparations, shaped how researchers understood LTP itself. By 1973, the mechanistic formulation of the link between LTP and memory provided an abstract framework around which findings from multiple perspectives could be integrated into a multifield research program. (shrink)
The mind's arrows , by Clark Glymour, combines several of the author's previous essays on causal inference. Glymour deploys causal Bayes nets (CBNs) to provide a descriptive psychological model of human causal inference and a prescriptive model for making inferences in cognitive neuropsychology and the social sciences. Though The mind's arrows is highly original and provocative, its labyrinthine organization and technical style render it inaccessible to the uninitiated. Here we attempt to distill, package and dress some of Glymour's more interesting (...) theses. We note that the psychological model is developed with minimal attention to evidence concerning human causal inference and that his prescriptive models fail to do justice either to the many sources of evidence in cognitive neuropsychology or to the serious challenges of making causal inferences in the social sciences. Considerable work remains to be done to complete Glymour's ambitious projects and to clearly communicate them to others. (shrink)
Many areas of science develop by discovering mechanisms and role functions. Cummins' (1975) analysis of role functions-according to which an item's role function is a capacity of that item that appears in an analytic explanation of the capacity of some containing system-captures one important sense of "function" in the biological sciences and elsewhere. Here I synthesize Cummins' account with recent work on mechanisms and causal/mechanical explanation. The synthesis produces an analysis of specifically mechanistic role functions, one that uses the characteristic (...) active, spatial, temporal, and hierarchical organization of mechanisms to add precision and content to Cummins' original suggestion. This synthesis also shows why the discovery of role functions is a scientific achievement. Discovering a role function (i) contributes to the interlevel integration of multilevel mechanisms, and (ii) provides a unique, contextual variety of causal/mechanical explanation. (shrink)
The concept of mechanism is analyzed in terms of entities and activities, organized such that they are productive of regular changes. Examples show how mechanisms work in neurobiology and molecular biology. Thinking in terms of mechanisms provides a new framework for addressing many traditional philosophical issues: causality, laws, explanation, reduction, and scientific change.