In this essay, we discuss how Descartes arrives at his mature view of material causation. Descartes position changes over time in some very radical ways. The last section spells out his final position as to how causation works in the world of material objects. When considering Descartes causal theories, it is useful to distinguish between vertical and horizontal causation. The vertical perspective addresses Gods relation to creation. God is essential being, and every being other than God depends upon God in (...) order to exist and to continue in existence .Thus, from the vertical perspective, the act of creating and fact of coming into existence are co-extensive notions. This metaphysical/theological framework is the basis of Descartes commitment to three interrelated notions: that genuine causes and effects occur simultaneously; that causing is appropriately the case only when the cause is acting; and the view that God is the efficient, total, and continuous cause of everything that exists and every action that occurs. So from the vertical perspective, things are nothing without Gods continuous creation, and there is a problem in articulating how they are said to have independent being and causal efficacy. It is in terms of these commitments that Descartes views on horizontal, or material, causation must be approached. We will make apparent the radical extent to which his account of intra-worldly causation abandons his earlier and more traditional views about material causation. To this end we discuss Descartes journey to his mature position by emphasizing the growing epistemic limitations of his philosophy, which culminate in what we call his epistemic stance. (shrink)
Few people, if any, still argue that science in all its aspects is a value-free endeavor. At the very least, values affect decisions about the choice of research problems to investigate and the uses to which the results of research are applied. But what about the actual doing of science? -/- As Science, Values, and Objectivity reveals, the connections and interactions between values and science are quite complex. The essays in this volume identify the crucial values that play a role (...) in science, distinguish some of the criteria that can be used for value identification, and elaborate the conditions for warranting certain values as necessary or central to the very activity of scientific research. -/- Recently, social constructivists have taken the presence of values within the scientific model to question the basis of objectivity. However, the contributors to <I>Science, Values, and Objectivity</I> recognize that such acknowledgment of the role of values does not negate the fact that objects exist in the world. Objects have the power to constrain our actions and thoughts, though the norms for these thoughts lie in the public, social world. -/- Values may be decried or defended, praised or blamed, but in a world that strives for a modicum of reason, values, too, must be reasoned. Critical assessment of the values that play a role in scientific research is as much a part of doing good science as interpreting data. (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.
Traditionally it has been thought that scientific controversies can always be resolved on the basis of empirical data. Recently, however, social constructionists have claimed that the outcome of scientific debates is strongly influenced by non-evidential factors such as the rhetorical prowess and professional clout of the participants. This volume of previously unpublished essays by well-known philosophers of science presents historical studies and philosophical analyses that undermine the plausibility of an extreme social constructionist perspective while also indicating the need for a (...) richer and more realistic account of scientific rationality. (shrink)