Foundations of Science 18 (4):707-723 (2013)
AbstractExplaining the complex dynamics exhibited in many biological mechanisms requires extending the recent philosophical treatment of mechanisms that emphasizes sequences of operations. To understand how nonsequentially organized mechanisms will behave, scientists often advance what we call dynamic mechanistic explanations. These begin with a decomposition of the mechanism into component parts and operations, using a variety of laboratory-based strategies. Crucially, the mechanism is then recomposed by means of computational models in which variables or terms in differential equations correspond to properties of its parts and operations. We provide two illustrations drawn from research on circadian rhythms. Once biologists identified some of the components of the molecular mechanism thought to be responsible for circadian rhythms, computational models were used to determine whether the proposed mechanisms could generate sustained oscillations. Modeling has become even more important as researchers have recognized that the oscillations generated in individual neurons are synchronized within networks; we describe models being employed to assess how different possible network architectures could produce the observed synchronized activity
Similar books and articles
Understanding Biological Mechanisms: Using Illustrations From Circadian Rhythm Research.William Bechtel - unknown
Dynamic Mechanistic Explanation: Computational Modeling of Circadian Rhythms as an Exemplar for Cognitive Science.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - 2010 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (3):321-333.
Complex Biological Mechanisms: Cyclic, Oscillatory, and Autonomous.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - unknown
The Downs and Ups of Mechanistic Research: Circadian Rhythm Research as an Exemplar. [REVIEW]William Bechtel - 2010 - Erkenntnis 73 (3):313 - 328.
Understanding Endogenously Active Mechanisms: A Scientific and Philosophical Challenge. [REVIEW]William Bechtel - 2012 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (2):233-248.
Generalization and Discovery by Assuming Conserved Mechanisms: Cross‐Species Research on Circadian Oscillators.William Bechtel - 2009 - Philosophy of Science 76 (5):762-773.
Dynamical Models: An Alternative or Complement to Mechanistic Explanations?David M. Kaplan & William Bechtel - 2011 - Topics in Cognitive Science 3 (2):438-444.
Decomposing, Recomposing, and Situating Circadian Mechanisms: Three Tasks in Developing Mechanistic Explanations.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - 2009 - In H. Leitgeb & A. Hieke (eds.), Reduction: Between the Mind and the Brain. Ontos. pp. 12--177.
The Cell: Locus or Object of Inquiry?William Bechtel - 2010 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 41 (3):172-182.
Looking Down, Around, and Up: Mechanistic Explanation in Psychology.William Bechtel - 2009 - Philosophical Psychology 22 (5):543-564.
Understanding the Brain as an Endogenously Active Mechanism.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - unknown
Causal Graphs and Biological Mechanisms.Alexander Gebharter & Marie I. Kaiser - 2014 - In Marie I. Kaiser, Oliver Scholz, Daniel Plenge & Andreas Hüttemann (eds.), Explanation in the special sciences: The case of biology and history. Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 55-86.
Mechanisms in Dynamically Complex Systems.Meinard Kuhlmann - 2011 - In Phyllis McKay Illari, Federica Russo & Jon Williamson (eds.), Causality in the Sciences. Oxford University Press.
Reducing Psychology While Maintaining its Autonomy Via Mechanistic Explanations.William Bechtel - 2007 - In M. Schouten & H. L. De Joong (eds.), The Matter of the Mind: Philosophical Essays on Psychology, Neuroscience and Reduction. Blackwell.
Added to PP
Historical graph of downloads
Citations of this work
The Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution.Worth Boone & Gualtiero Piccinini - 2016 - Synthese 193 (5):1509-1534.
Organization Needs Organization: Understanding Integrated Control in Living Organisms.Leonardo Bich & William Bechtel - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 93:96-106.
Getting Over Atomism: Functional Decomposition in Complex Neural Systems.Daniel C. Burnston - 2021 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 72 (3):743-772.
Can Mechanistic Explanation Be Reconciled with Scale-Free Constitution and Dynamics?William Bechtel - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 53:84-93.
The Non-Mechanistic Option: Defending Dynamical Explanations.Russell Meyer - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (3):959-985.
References found in this work
Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
Discovering Complexity: Decomposition and Localization as Strategies in Scientific Research.William Bechtel & Robert C. Richardson - 1993 - Princeton.
Explanation: A Mechanist Alternative.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (2):421-441.
An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine.Claude Bernard, Henry Copley Greene & Lawrence Joseph Henderson - 1927 - Classics of Medicine Library.