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)
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.
We sketch a framework for building a unified science of cognition. This unification is achieved by showing how functional analyses of cognitive capacities can be integrated with the multilevel mechanistic explanations of neural systems. The core idea is that functional analyses are sketches of mechanisms , in which some structural aspects of a mechanistic explanation are omitted. Once the missing aspects are filled in, a functional analysis turns into a full-blown mechanistic explanation. By this process, functional analyses are seamlessly integrated (...) with multilevel mechanistic explanations. (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)
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)
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)
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)
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: email@example.com. (shrink)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Hodgkin and Huxley’s 1952 model of the action potential is an apparent dream case of covering-law explanation. The model appeals to general laws of physics and chemistry (specifically, Ohm’s law and the Nernst equation), and the laws, coupled with details about antecedent and background conditions, entail many of the significant properties of the action potential. However, Hodgkin and Huxley insist that their model falls short of an explanation. This historical fact suggests either that there is more to explaining the action (...) potential than subsuming it under a general laws or that Hodgkin and Huxley were wrong about the explanatory import of their model. In this paper, I defend Hodgkin and Huxley’s view that their model alone does not explain the action potential (contra Weber 2005). I argue further that neuroscientists lacked crucial explanatory details about the action potential until they could describe the molecular and ionic mechanisms by virtue of which their model holds (see Bogen 2005). Mathematical generalizations are important epistemic tools for assessing mechanistic explanations, but they are neither necessary nor sufficient for adequate explanations, even at the lowest levels of organization where biological phenomena are integrated with physics and chemistry. (shrink)
In what sense are the activities and properties of components in a mechanism explanatorily relevant to the behavior of a mechanism as a whole? I articulate this problem, the problem of constitutive relevance, and I show that it must be solved if we are to understand mechanisms and mechanistic explanation. I argue against some putative solutions to the problem of constitutive relevance, and I sketch a positive account according to which relevance is analyzed in terms ofrelationships of mutual manipulability between (...) the behavior of a mechanism as a whole and the properties and activities of its components. My account is a causal-mechanical account in the sense that it is a particular expression of the idea that constitutive explanation is a matter of showing how an explanandum phenomenon is situated within the causal structure of the world. It is thus offered as a rival to epistemic (argument-centered) and psychological accounts of interlevel explanation. (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.
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)
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)
This article draws on the results of a qualitative, exploratory study of 20 Australian women business owners to demonstrate how using a ‹gender as social identity’ lens provides new insights into the influence of gender on exporting and entrepreneurial behaviour. Interview data reveal perceptions of gender identity and gender relations varied and influenced the interpretations which women business owners placed on their exporting activities. Women in the study used different terms to describe exporter and entrepreneurial characteristics to those found in (...) extant literature. A strong theme was exporting as a life-changing experience that allowed the women to grow personally as well as grow the business and succeed as exporters. (shrink)
The “Perky effect” is the interference of visual imagery with vision. Studies of this effect show that visual imagery has more than symbolic properties, but these properties differ both spatially (including “pictorially”) and temporally from those of vision. We therefore reject both the literal picture-in-the-head view and the entirely symbolic view.
Carl Craver’s recent book offers an account of the explanatory and theoretical structure of neuroscience. It depicts it as centered around the idea of achieving mechanistic understanding, i.e., obtaining knowledge of how a set of underlying components interacts to produce a given function of the brain. Its core account of mechanistic explanation and relevance is causal-manipulationist in spirit, and offers substantial insight into casual explanation in brain science and the associated notion of levels of explanation. However, the focus on mechanistic (...) explanation leaves some open questions regarding the role of computation and cognition. (shrink)
I claim that the Hodgkin‐Huxley (HH) current equations owe a great deal of their importance to their role in bringing results from experiments on squid giant action preparations to bear on the study of the action potential in other neurons in other in vitro and in vivo environments. I consider ideas from Weber and Craver about the role of Coulomb’s and other fundamental equations in explaining the action potential and in HH’s development of their equations. Also, I offer an embellishment (...) to Schaffner’s emergent unifier conception of the HH model. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of HPS, University of Pittsburgh, 1017 Cathedral of Learning, Pittsburgh, PA 15260; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
: Catherine Malabou is a professor of philosophy at Paris-Nanterre. A collaborator and student of Jacques Derrida, her work shares some of his interest in rigorous protocols of reading, and a willingness to attend to the undercurrents of over-read and "too familiar" texts. But, as she points out, this orientation was shared by Hegel himself. Arguing against Heidegger, Kojève, and other critics of Hegel, the book in which this Introduction appears puts Hegel back on the map of the present.
This paper looks to evolve a discourse about the body in medieval women's mystical experience via an understanding of the life and work of Saint Catherine of Genoa as écriture-féminine. Drawing upon Catherine's resolution of binarism through the articulation of sexuality and textuality, I argue that the female mystic's experience of the body as site of struggle helps move beyond analysis of a binary experience to a politics of speaking the body directly.
It has become standard for feminist philosophers of language to analyze Catherine MacKinnon's claim in terms of speech act theory. Backed by the Austinian observation that speech can do things and the legal claim that pornography is speech, the claim is that the speech acts performed by means of pornography silence women. This turns upon the notion of illocutionary silencing, or disablement. In this paper I observe that the focus by feminist philosophers of language on the failure to achieve (...) uptake for illocutionary acts serves to group together different kinds of illocutionary silencing which function in very different ways. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to examine the usefulness of the Machamer, Darden, and Craver (2000) mechanism approach to gaining an understanding of explanation in cognitive neuroscience. We argue that although the mechanism approach can capture many aspects of explanation in cognitive neuroscience, it cannot capture everything. In particular, it cannot completely capture all aspects of the content and significance of mental representations or the evaluative features constitutive of psychopathology.
This review essay on three recent books on John Rawls’s theory of justice, by Catherine Audard, Samuel Freeman, and Thomas Pogge, describes the great boon they offer serious students of Rawls. They form a united front in firmly and definitively rebuffing Robert Nozick’s libertarian critique, Michael Sandel’s communitarian critique, and more generally critiques of “neutralist liberalism,” as well as in affirming the basic unity of Rawls’s position. At a deeper level, however, they diverge, and in ways that, this essay (...) suggests, go astray on subtle questions of interpretation: Freeman overemphasizes reciprocity, Pogge miscasts Rawls as a consequentialist, and Audard exaggerates the Kantian aspect of Rawls’s core, continuing commitment to “doctrinal autonomy.”. (shrink)
The political theorist William E. Connolly reads Augustine's Confessions as an exhortation to deny the paradox of identity/difference. The paradox for Connolly is this: if one confesses a true identity, one must be false to difference, but if one is true to difference, one must sacrifice the promise of true identity. I revisit Augustine's Confessions here in order to offer a reading of their paradoxical character that contrasts with Connolly's. I will argue that Augustine's confession does not deny the paradox (...) of identity/difference but exemplifies what it means to struggle within it. I turn to James Wetzel's work on Augustine's idea of free will and Catherine Keller's work on the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo to suggest that treating Augustine's confession as confession reveals this struggle. (shrink)
Recent feminists have critiqued G.W. Leibniz’s Theodicy for its effort to justify God’s role in undeserved human suffering over natural and moral evil. These critiques suggest that theodicies which focus on evil as suffering alone obfuscate how to thematize evil, and so they conclude that theodicies should be rejected and replaced with a secularized notion of evil that is inextricably tied to the experiences of the victim. This paper argues that the political philosophy found in the writings of Catherine (...) Macaulay (1731–1791) can serve as a support to Leibniz’s larger claims and can also offer a more concrete, situated notion of evil that escapes the contemporary feminist critique. Macaulay’s work on natural and moral political evil, especially, will be presented as an early modern precursor to feminism, which defends divine perfection and a pre-established harmony in the face of political evil. I then identify three unique theodicical arguments in Macaulay’s work: the pragmatically beneficial defense, the eschatalogical defense, and the redemptive defense. (shrink)