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  1. Metaphysical Explanation: The Kitcher Picture.Sam Baron & James Norton - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-21.
    This paper offers a new account of metaphysical explanation. The account is modelled on Kitcher’s (1981/1989) unificationist approach to scientific explanation. We begin, in Section Two, by briefly introducing the notion of metaphysical explanation and outlining the target of analysis. After that, we introduce a unificationist account of metaphysical explanation (Section Three) before arguing that such an account is capable of capturing four core features of metaphysical explanations: (i) irreflexivity, (ii) non-monotonicity, (iii) asymmetry and (iv) relevance. Since the unificationist theory (...)
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  2. It's a Matter of Principle: Scientific Explanation in Information‐Theoretic Reconstructions of Quantum Theory.Laura Felline - 2016 - Dialectica 70 (4):549-575.
    The aim of this paper is to explore the ways in which Axiomatic Reconstructions of Quantum Theory in terms of Information-Theoretic principles can contribute to explaining and understanding quantum phenomena, as well as to study their explanatory limitations. This is achieved in part by offering an account of the kind of explanation that axiomatic reconstructions of Quantum Theory provide, and re-evaluating the epistemic status of the program in light of this explanation. As illustrative case studies, I take Clifton's, Bub's and (...)
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  3. Mechanisms, Experiments, and Theory-Ladenness: A Realist–Perspectivalist View.Marco Buzzoni - 2016 - Axiomathes 26 (4):411-427.
    The terms “perspectivism” and “perspectivalism” have been the focus of an intense philosophical discussion with important repercussions for the debate about the role of mechanisms in scientific explanations. However, leading exponents of the new mechanistic philosophy have conceded more than was necessary to the radically subjectivistic perspectivalism, and fell into the opposite error, by retaining not negligible residues of objectivistic views about mechanisms. In order to remove this vacillation between the subjective-cultural and the objective-natural sides of mechanisms, we shall raise (...)
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  4. Statistical Explanation and Statistical RelevanceWesley C. Salmon R. C. Jeffrey J. G. Greeno.G. M. K. Hunt - 1974 - Isis 65 (3):403-404.
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  5. Why the Difference Between Explanation and Argument Matters to Science Education.Ingo Brigandt - 2016 - Science & Education 25 (3-4):251-275.
    Contributing to the recent debate on whether or not explanations ought to be differentiated from arguments, this article argues that the distinction matters to science education. I articulate the distinction in terms of explanations and arguments having to meet different standards of adequacy. Standards of explanatory adequacy are important because they correspond to what counts as a good explanation in a science classroom, whereas a focus on evidence-based argumentation can obscure such standards of what makes an explanation explanatory. I provide (...)
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  6. The Silent Hexagon: Explaining Comb Structures.Tim Räz - 2017 - Synthese 194 (5).
    The paper presents, and discusses, four candidate explanations of the structure, and construction, of the bees’ honeycomb. So far, philosophers have used one of these four explanations, based on the mathematical Honeycomb Conjecture, while the other three candidate explanations have been ignored. I use the four cases to resolve a dispute between Pincock and Baker about the Honeycomb Conjecture explanation. Finally, I find that the two explanations focusing on the construction mechanism are more promising than those focusing exclusively on the (...)
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  7. How-Possibly Explanations in (Quantum) Computer Science.Michael E. Cuffaro - 2015 - Philosophy of Science 82 (5):737-748.
    A primary goal of quantum computer science is to find an explanation for the fact that quantum computers are more powerful than classical computers. In this paper I argue that to answer this question is to compare algorithmic processes of various kinds and to describe the possibility spaces associated with these processes. By doing this, we explain how it is possible for one process to outperform its rival. Further, in this and similar examples little is gained in subsequently asking a (...)
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  8. A Teleologist's Reactions To "on Private Events And Theoretical Terms".Joseph Rychlak - 1992 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 13 (4):347-358.
    This paper examines the theoretical differences obtaining between a mechanist like Moore and a teleologist like Rychlak. It is shown that mechanistic formulations invariably reduce the account to material and efficient causation, whereas teleologists want to bring in formal-final cause descriptions as well. Mechanists frame their explanations in third-person terms whereas teleologists often seek a first-person formulation of behavior. Moore's references to "private events" are shown to be extraspectively understood. A major theme of this paper is that Skinner actually capitalized (...)
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  9. Modeling Systems-Level Dynamics: Understanding Without Mechanistic Explanation in Integrative Systems Biology.Miles MacLeod & Nancy J. Nersessian - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 49:1-11.
  10. Questioning Structurism as a New Standard for Social Scientific Explanations.Jeroen Van Bouwel - 2004 - Graduate Journal of Social Science 1 (2):204-226.
    As the literature on Critical Realism in the social sciences is growing, it is about time to analyse whether a new, acceptable standard for social scientific explanations is being introduced. In order to do so, I will discuss the work of Christopher Lloyd, who analysed contributions of social scientists that rely on (what he called) a structurist ontology and a structurist methodology, and advocated a third option in the methodological debate between individualism and holism. I will suggest modifications to three (...)
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  11. Statistical Explanation.Wesley C. Salmon - 1970 - In Robert Colodny (ed.), The Nature and Function of Scientific Theories. University of Pittsburgh Press. pp. 173--231.
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  12. Naturalness and Artificiality in Bioethics.Gregor Schiemann - 2012 - In S. Schleidgen (ed.), Human Nature and Self Design. Mentis.
    I emphasize the difference between bioethics and sciences that are relevant to bioethics on the one hand and the lifeworld on the other hand, to which problems of bioethics apply. The difference between types of experience in the scientific realm and in the lifeworld is reflected by the different definitions of nature they tend to favor. Against this background, I will claim that the object domains of the natural and the artificial are indeed better separated in the context of everyday (...)
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  13. Historical Explanations in Modern Physics? The Lesson of Quantum Mechanics.Ulrich Röseberg - 1988 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 3 (1):68-79.
  14. Statistical Explanations.James H. Fetzer - 1972 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1972:337 - 347.
    The purpose of this paper is to provide a systematic appraisal of the covering law and statistical relevance theories of statistical explanation advanced by Carl G. Hempel and by Wesley C. Salmon, respectively. The analysis is intended to show that the difference between these accounts is inprinciple analogous to the distinction between truth and confirmation, where Hempel's analysis applies to what is taken to be the case and Salmon's analysis applies to what is the case. Specifically, it is argued (a) (...)
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  15. Mechanisms Are Real and Local.Phyllis McKay Illari & Jon Williamson - 2011 - In Phyllis McKay Illari, Federica Russo & Jon Williamson (eds.), Causality in the Sciences. Oxford University Press.
    Mechanisms have become much-discussed, yet there is still no consensus on how to characterise them. In this paper, we start with something everyone is agreed on – that mechanisms explain – and investigate what constraints this imposes on our metaphysics of mechanisms. We examine two widely shared premises about how to understand mechanistic explanation: (1) that mechanistic explanation offers a welcome alternative to traditional laws-based explanation and (2) that there are two senses of mechanistic explanation that we call ‘epistemic explanation’ (...)
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  16. Constitutive Explanatory Relevance.Carl Craver - 2007 - Journal of Philosophical Research 32:3-20.
    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 (...)
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  17. Causation, Explanation, and Statistical Relevance. Shrader - 1977 - Philosophy of Science 44 (1):136-145.
  18. Mechanistic Explanation and Organismic Biology.Ernest Nagel - 1950 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 11 (3):327-338.
  19. Reductionism in a Historical Science.Alex Rosenberg - 2001 - Philosophy of Science 68 (2):135-163.
    Reductionism is a metaphysical thesis, a claim about explanations, and a research program. The metaphysical thesis reductionists advance (and antireductionists accept) is that all facts, including all biological facts, are fixed by the physical and chemical facts; there are no non-physical events, states, or processes, and so biological events, states and processes are “nothing but” physical ones. The research program can be framed as a methodological prescription which follows from the claim about explanations. Antireductionism does not dispute reductionism’s metaphysical claim, (...)
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  20. Homogeneity Conditions on the Statistical Relevance Model of Explanation.J./P. Thomas - 1979 - Philosophical Studies 36 (1):101 - 105.
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Functional Explanation
  1. An Organisational Approach to Biological Communication.Ramiro Frick, Leonardo Bich & Alvaro Moreno - 2019 - Acta Biotheoretica.
    This paper aims to provide a philosophical and theoretical account of biological communication grounded in the notion of organisation. The organisational approach characterises living systems as organised in such a way that they are capable to self-produce and self-maintain while in constant interaction with the environment. To apply this theoretical framework to the study of biological communication, we focus on a specific approach, based on the notion of influence, according to which communication takes place when a signal emitted by a (...)
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  2. From Paradigm-Based Explanation to Pragmatic Genealogy.Matthieu Queloz - forthcoming - Mind:fzy083.
    Why would philosophers interested in the points or functions of our conceptual practices bother with genealogical explanations if they can focus directly on paradigmatic examples of the practices we now have? To answer this question, I compare the method of pragmatic genealogy advocated by Edward Craig, Bernard Williams, and Miranda Fricker—a method whose singular combination of fictionalising and historicising has met with suspicion—with the simpler method of paradigm-based explanation. Fricker herself has recently moved towards paradigm-based explanation, arguing that it is (...)
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  3. La teoría de la selección natural. Una exploración metacientífica.Santiago Ginnobili - 2018 - Bernal: Universidad Nacional de Quilmes.
    Este libro analiza y reconstruye una de las teorías científicas que más discusiones han provocado en el ámbito de la biología, de la filosofía y de la sociedad: la teoría de la selección natural. Esta teoría, que ocupa un lugar central en la biología evolutiva, se encuentra en el centro de la revolución darwiniana, uno de los cambios más radicales ocurridos en la historia de la ciencia y, sin dudas, uno de los que más consecuencias han tenido sobre la ciencia (...)
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  4. A Functional Naturalism.Anthony Nguyen - 2018 - Synthese 2002.
    I provide two arguments against value-free naturalism. Both are based on considerations concerning biological teleology. Value-free naturalism is the thesis that both (1) everything is, at least in principle, under the purview of the sciences and (2) all scientific facts are purely non-evaluative. First, I advance a counterexample to any analysis on which natural selection is necessary to biological teleology. This should concern the value-free naturalist, since most value-free analyses of biological teleology appeal to natural selection. My counterexample is unique (...)
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  5. Are There Teleological Functions to Compute?Dimitri Coelho Mollo - forthcoming - Philosophy of Science.
    I analyse a tension at the core of the mechanistic view of computation, generated by its joint commitment to the medium-independence of computational vehicles, and to computational systems possessing teleological functions to compute. While computation is individuated in medium-independent terms, teleology is sensitive to the constitutive physical properties of vehicles. This tension spells trouble for the mechanistic view, suggesting that there can be no teleological functions to compute. I argue that, once considerations about the relevant function-bestowing factors for computational systems (...)
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  6. ¿Es la biología funcional eliminable?Andrea Olmos & Santiago Ginnobili - 2016 - Perspectivas 1 (2):69-100.
    RESUMEN Pocas polémicas en el ámbito de la filosofía de la biología han llevado tanto espacio como la que existen alrededor de la explicación funcional y del lenguaje funcional. Varios de los enfoques principales que han tratado de reconstruir este tipo de explicación y elucidar tal lenguaje, aunque fuertemente heterogéneos, comparten la idea de que el lenguaje funcional no es más que un modo de hablar del cual puede prescindirse, pues, asumen que el lenguaje funcional puede ser definido a partir (...)
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  7. A Unified Cognitive Model of Visual Filling-In Based on an Emergic Network Architecture.David Pierre Leibovitz - 2013 - Dissertation, Carleton University
    The Emergic Cognitive Model (ECM) is a unified computational model of visual filling-in based on the Emergic Network architecture. The Emergic Network was designed to help realize systems undergoing continuous change. In this thesis, eight different filling-in phenomena are demonstrated under a regime of continuous eye movement (and under static eye conditions as well). -/- ECM indirectly demonstrates the power of unification inherent with Emergic Networks when cognition is decomposed according to finer-grained functions supporting change. These can interact to raise (...)
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  8. Against Organizational Functions.Justin Garson - 2017 - Philosophy of Science 84 (5):1093-1103.
    Over the last 20 years, several philosophers have developed a new approach to biological functions, the organizational approach. This is not a single theory but a family of theories based on the idea that a trait token can acquire a function by virtue of the way it contributes to a complex, organized system and thereby to its own continued persistence as a token. I argue that the organizational approach faces a serious liberality objection. I examine three different ways organizational theorists (...)
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  9. How Objective Are Biological Functions?Marcel Weber - 2017 - Synthese 194 (12):4741-4755.
    John Searle has argued that functions owe their existence to the value that we put into life and survival. In this paper, I will provide a critique of Searle’s argument concerning the ontology of functions. I rely on a standard analysis of functional predicates as relating not only a biological entity, an activity that constitutes the function of this entity and a type of system but also a goal state. A functional attribution without specification of such a goal state has (...)
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  10. Developing the Explanatory Dimensions of Part–Whole Realization.Ronald Endicott - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (12):3347-3368.
    I use Carl Gillett’s much heralded dimensioned theory of realization as a platform to develop a plausible part–whole theory. I begin with some basic desiderata for a theory of realization that its key terms should be defined and that it should be explanatory. I then argue that Gillett’s original theory violates these conditions because its explanatory force rests upon an unspecified “in virtue of” relation. I then examine Gillett’s later version that appeals instead to theoretical terms tied to “mechanisms.” Yet (...)
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  11. Functionalism, Superduperfunctionalism, and Physicalism: Lessons From Supervenience.Ronald Endicott - 2016 - Synthese 193 (7):2205-2235.
    Philosophers almost universally believe that concepts of supervenience fail to satisfy the standards for physicalism because they offer mere property correlations that are left unexplained. They are thus compatible with non-physicalist accounts of those relations. Moreover, many philosophers not only prefer some kind of functional-role theory as a physically acceptable account of mind-body and other inter-level relations, but they use it as a form of “superdupervenience” to explain supervenience in a physically acceptable way. But I reject a central part of (...)
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  12. A Modal Theory of Function.Bence Nanay - 2010 - Journal of Philosophy 107 (8):412-431.
    The function of a trait token is usually defined in terms of some properties of other (past, present, future) tokens of the same trait type. I argue that this strategy is problematic, as trait types are (at least partly) individuated by their functional properties, which would lead to circularity. In order to avoid this problem, I suggest a way to define the function of a trait token in terms of the properties of the very same trait token. To able to (...)
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  13. Malfunction Defended.Ema Sullivan-Bissett - 2017 - Synthese 194 (7):2501-2522.
    Historical accounts of biological function are thought to have, as a point in their favour, their being able to accommodate malfunction. Recently, this has been brought into doubt by Paul Sheldon Davies’s argument for the claim that both selected malfunction (that of the selected functions account) and weak etiological malfunction (that of the weak etiological account), are impossible. In this paper I suggest that in light of Davies’s objection, historical accounts of biological function need to be adjusted to accommodate malfunction. (...)
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  14. Mechanisms and Model-Based Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging.Mark Povich - 2015 - Philosophy of Science 82 (5):1035-1046.
    Mechanistic explanations satisfy widely held norms of explanation: the ability to manipulate and answer counterfactual questions about the explanandum phenomenon. A currently debated issue is whether any nonmechanistic explanations can satisfy these explanatory norms. Weiskopf argues that the models of object recognition and categorization, JIM, SUSTAIN, and ALCOVE, are not mechanistic yet satisfy these norms of explanation. In this article I argue that these models are mechanism sketches. My argument applies recent research using model-based functional magnetic resonance imaging, a novel (...)
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  15. From Aristotle’s Teleology to Darwin’s Genealogy: The Stamp of Inutility, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015 (Pdf: Contents, Introduction).Marco Solinas - 2015 - Palgrave-Macmillan.
    Starting with Aristotle and moving on to Darwin, Marco Solinas outlines the basic steps from the birth, establishment and later rebirth of the traditional view of living beings, and its overturning by evolutionary revolution. The classic framework devised by Aristotle was still dominant in the 17th Century world of Galileo, Harvey and Ray, and remained hegemonic until the time of Lamarck and Cuvier in the 19th Century. Darwin's breakthrough thus takes on the dimensions of an abandonment of the traditional finalistic (...)
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  16. Explanation in Biology.Ar Bh - unknown
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  17. Causal Role Theories of Functional Explanation.Mark B. Couch - 2011 - In James Fieser & Bradley Dowden (eds.), Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  18. Objetividad versus inteligibilidad de las funciones biológicas: La paradoja normativa y el autismo epistemológico de las ciencias modernas.Alberto Molina Pérez - 2006 - Ludus Vitalis 14 (26):39-67.
    Finality, design and purpose have started to be excluded from the language of the natural sciences since the XVIIth century. Darwin succeeded in excluding them from his theory of evolution appealing to a blind and mechanical natural selection. Today, the most usual definitions for the concept of biological function take for granted that functions: 1) are not dependent on a goal; 2) are not dependent on observers, but only on nature; 3) are explicable in causal terms, either with reference to (...)
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  19. Adaptación y función - El papel de los conceptos funcionales en la teoría de la selección natural darwiniana.Santiago Ginnobili - 2009 - Ludus Vitalis 17 (31):3-24.
    La discusión acerca de funciones es de larga data en filosofía. Normalmente se describe a la revolución científica del siglo XVII como eliminando las causas finales y la teleología de la física. Sin embargo, el lenguaje funcional cumple un papel central en ciertas áreas de la práctica biológica. Esto ha llevado a muchos filósofos a intentar elucidar el concepto de función, en algunos casos para defender la relevancia de estos usos, en otros para mostrar que se trata de meras formas (...)
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  20. Back to the Roots. “Functions” and “Teleology” in the Philosophy of Leibniz.Antonio Nunziante - 2008 - In Luca Illetterati & Francesca Michelini (eds.), Purposiveness. Teleology between Nature and Mind. Ontos Verlag.
    It is certainly true that in early modern thought the emergence of a new science changed the image of the universe in a mechanistic way. It must be considered, though, that most of the main protagonists of this revolution (Kepler, Newton, Leibniz, ‘biologists’ like Leeuwenhoek, Hartsoeker, Hooke, Malpighi, Redi, etc.) still continued to consider the importance and the utility of a finalistic explanation of natural phenomena. Concepts like “function”, “self-organization”, “organism” have roots in early modern thought: not only from a (...)
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  21. The Functional Sense of Mechanism.Justin Garson - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (3):317-333.
    This article presents a distinct sense of ‘mechanism’, which I call the functional sense of mechanism. According to this sense, mechanisms serve functions, and this fact places substantive restrictions on the kinds of system activities ‘for which’ there can be a mechanism. On this view, there are no mechanisms for pathology; pathologies result from disrupting mechanisms for functions. Second, on this sense, natural selection is probably not a mechanism for evolution because it does not serve a function. After distinguishing this (...)
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  22. The Function of Perception.Peter J. Graham - 2014 - In Abrol Fairweather (ed.), Virtue Scientia: Bridges between Virtue Epistemology and Philosophy of Science. Synthese Library. pp. 13-31.
    What is the biological function of perception? I hold perception, especially visual perception in humans, has the biological function of accurately representing the environment. Tyler Burge argues this cannot be so in Origins of Objectivity (Oxford, 2010), for accuracy is a semantical relationship and not, as such, a practical matter. Burge also provides a supporting example. I rebut the argument and the example. Accuracy is sometimes also a practical matter if accuracy partly explains how perception contributes to survival and reproduction.
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  23. Function Attribution Depends on the Explanatory Context: A Reply to Neander and Rosenberg's Reply to Nanay.Bence Nanay - 2012 - Journal of Philosophy 109 (10):623-627.
    In ‘A modal theory of function’, I gave an argument against all existing theories of function and outlined a new theory. Karen Neander and Alex Rosenberg argue against both my negative and my positive claim. My aim here is not merely to defend my account from their objections, but to (a) very briefly point out that the new account of etiological function they propose in response to my criticism cannot avoid the circularity worry either and, more importantly, to (b) highlight, (...)
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  24. Konzepte Und Konstruktionen des Lebenden.Elke Witt - 2012 - Alber.
    Im Zuge der Entwicklung der Synthetischen Biologie lassen sich zur Zeit in den modernen Lebenswissenschaften Bemühungen erkennen, Leben künstlich herzustellen. Die vorliegende Arbeit befasst sich mit den erkenntnistheoretischen Aspekten der Versuche einer technischen Erzeugung von minimalen Lebensformen. Sie untersucht, auf welchen unterschiedlichen Grundannahmen die aktuellen Projekte zur Herstellung von Proto- und Minimalorganismen beruhen bzw. welche Eigenschaften von Organismen als konstitutiv für die Lebensprozesse angenommen werden.
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  25. Functionalism and The Independence Problems.Darren Bradley - 2013 - Noûs 47 (1):545-557.
    The independence problems for functionalism stem from the worry that if functional properties are defined in terms of their causes and effects then such functional properties seem to be too intimately connected to these purported causes and effects. I distinguish three different ways the independence problems can be filled out – in terms of necessary connections, analytic connections and vacuous explanations. I argue that none of these present serious problems. Instead, they bring out some important and over-looked features of functionalism.
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  26. Robust Processes and Teleological Language.Jonathan Birch - 2013 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 3 (3):299-312.
    I consider some hitherto unexplored examples of teleological language in the sciences. In explicating these examples, I aim to show (a) that such language is not the sole preserve of the biological sciences, and (b) that not all such talk is reducible to the ascription of functions. In chemistry and biochemistry, scientists explaining molecular rearrangements and protein folding talk informally of molecules rearranging “in order to” maximize stability. Evolutionary biologists, meanwhile, often speak of traits evolving “in order to” optimize some (...)
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  27. Theoreticians as Professional Outsiders: The Modeling Strategies of John von Neumann and Norbert Wiener.Ehud Lamm - 2013 - In Oren Harman & Michael Dietrich (eds.), Outsider Scientists: Routes to Innovation in Biology. Chicago University Press.
    Both von Neumann and Wiener were outsiders to biology. Both were inspired by biology and both proposed models and generalizations that proved inspirational for biologists. Around the same time in the 1940s von Neumann developed the notion of self reproducing automata and Wiener suggested an explication of teleology using the notion of negative feedback. These efforts were similar in spirit. Both von Neumann and Wiener used mathematical ideas to attack foundational issues in biology, and the concepts they articulated had lasting (...)
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  28. The Delphic Boat. What Genomes Tell Us.Antoine Danchin - 2003 - Harvard University Press.
    Danchin argues that if scientists can reach a level of understanding of genomes, they will be able to resolve the major biological puzzle of the 21st century: the enigma of the living machine that creates the living machine.
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  29. Function, Modality, Mental Content.Bence Nanay - 2011 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 32 (2):84-87.
    I clarify some of the details of the modal theory of function I outlined in Nanay (2010): (a) I explicate what it means that the function of a token biological trait is fixed by modal facts; (b) I address an objection to my trait type individuation argument against etiological function and (c) I examine the consequences of replacing the etiological theory of function with a modal theory for the prospects of using the concept of biological function to explain mental content.
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  30. Selected Effects and Causal Role Functions in the Brain: The Case for an Etiological Approach to Neuroscience.Justin Garson - 2011 - Biology and Philosophy 26 (4):547-565.
    Despite the voluminous literature on biological functions produced over the last 40 years, few philosophers have studied the concept of function as it is used in neuroscience. Recently, Craver (forthcoming; also see Craver 2001) defended the causal role theory against the selected effects theory as the most appropriate theory of function for neuroscience. The following argues that though neuroscientists do study causal role functions, the scope of that theory is not as universal as claimed. Despite the strong prima facie superiority (...)
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