Cajal’s Law of Dynamic Polarization: Mechanism and Design

Philosophies 3 (2):11 (2018)
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Abstract

Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the primary architect of the neuron doctrine and the law of dynamic polarization, is considered to be the founder of modern neuroscience. At the same time, many philosophers, historians, and neuroscientists agree that modern neuroscience embodies a mechanistic perspective on the explanation of the nervous system. In this paper, I review the extant mechanistic interpretation of Cajal’s contribution to modern neuroscience. Then, I argue that the extant mechanistic interpretation fails to capture the explanatory import of Cajal’s law of dynamic polarization. My claim is that the definitive formulation of Cajal’s law of dynamic polarization, despite its mechanistic inaccuracies, embodies a non-mechanistic pattern of reasoning (i.e., design explanation) that is an integral component of modern neuroscience.

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Sergio Daniel Barberis
Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA)

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References found in this work

Thinking about mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
Explaining the Brain.Carl F. Craver - 2007 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
The Principles of Psychology.William James - 1890 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 11 (3):506-507.
How scientific models can explain.Alisa Bokulich - 2011 - Synthese 180 (1):33 - 45.

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