How does it work?: The search for explanatory mechanisms

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 34 (2):182-210 (2004)
Abstract
This article addresses the following problems: What is a mechanism, how can it be discovered, and what is the role of the knowledge of mechanisms in scientific explanation and technological control? The proposed answers are these. A mechanism is one of the processes in a concrete system that makes it what it is — for example, metabolism in cells, interneuronal connections in brains, work in factories and offices, research in laboratories, and litigation in courts of law. Because mechanisms are largely or totally imperceptible, they must be conjectured. Once hypothesized they help explain, because a deep scientific explanation is an answer to a question of the form, "How does it work, that is, what makes it tick—what are its mechanisms?" Thus, by contrast with the subsumption of particulars under a generalization, an explanation proper consists in unveiling some lawful mechanism, as when political stability is explained by either coercion, public opinion manipulation, or democratic participation. Finding mechanisms satisfies not only the yearning for understanding, but also the need for control. Key Words: explanation • function • mechanism • process • system • systemism.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1177/0048393103262550
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history
Request removal from index
Download options
Our Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 27,553
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Interpreting Causality in the Health Sciences.Federica Russo & Jon Williamson - 2007 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 21 (2):157 – 170.
Two Concepts of Mechanism: Componential Causal System and Abstract Form of Interaction.Jaakko Kuorikoski - 2009 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 23 (2):143 – 160.
Bhaskar and Bunge on Social Emergence.Tuukka Kaidesoja - 2009 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 39 (3):300-322.
The Habitus Process: A Biopsychosocial Conception.Andreas Pickel - 2005 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 35 (4):437–461.

View all 11 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index

2009-01-28

Total downloads

153 ( #30,542 of 2,168,151 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

13 ( #25,606 of 2,168,151 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature


Discussion
Order:
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.

Other forums