Philosophy of the Social Sciences 27 (4):410-465 (1997)

Authors
Mario Bunge
McGill University
Abstract
The aim of this article is to elucidate the notions of explanation and mechanism, in particular of the social kind. A mechanism is defined as what makes a concrete system tick, and it is argued that to propose an explanation proper is to exhibit a lawful mechanism. The so-called covering law model is shown to exhibit only the logical aspect of explanation: it just subsumes particulars under universals. A full or mechanismic explanation involves mechanismic law statements, not purely descriptive ones such as functional relations and rate equations. Many examples from the natural, biosocial, and social sciences are examined. In particular, macro-micro-micro-macro social relations are shown to explain other wise puzzling macro-macro links. The last part of the article relates the author's progress, over half a century, toward understanding mechanism and explanation.
Keywords Philosophy of Science   Explanation
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DOI 10.1177/004839319702700402
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References found in this work BETA

The Logic of Scientific Discovery.K. Popper - 1959 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 10 (37):55-57.
Social Theory and Social Structure.Lawrence Haworth - 1961 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 11 (44):345-346.
Essay on Mind.D. O. Hebb - 1980 - L. Erlbaum Associates.

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Citations of this work BETA

The Concept of Mechanism in Biology.Daniel J. Nicholson - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43 (1):152-163.
How Does It Work?: The Search for Explanatory Mechanisms.Mario Bunge - 2004 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 34 (2):182-210.
Mechanisms in the Analysis of Social Macro-Phenomena.Renate Mayntz - 2004 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 34 (2):237-259.
The Mechanisms of Emergence.R. Keith Sawyer - 2004 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 34 (2):260-282.

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Causal Mechanisms in the Social Sciences.Peter Hedström & Petri Ylikoski - 2010 - Annual Review of Sociology 36:49–67.
Mechanisms in the Analysis of Social Macro-Phenomena.Renate Mayntz - 2004 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 34 (2):237-259.
The Concept of Mechanism in Biology.Daniel J. Nicholson - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43 (1):152-163.
How Does It Work?: The Search for Explanatory Mechanisms.Mario Bunge - 2004 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 34 (2):182-210.

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