Nancy Cartwright
London School of Economics
Mechanisms are now taken widely in philosophy of science to provide one of modern science’s basic explanatory devices. This has raised lively debate concerning the relationship between mechanisms, laws and explanation. This paper focuses on cases where a mechanism gives rise to a ceteris paribus law, addressing two inter-related questions: What kind of explanation is involved? and What is going on in the world when mechanism M affords behavior B described in a ceteris paribus law? We explore various answers offered by ‘new mechanists’ and others before setting out and explaining our own answers: mechanistic explanations are a species of oldfashioned covering-law explanation and this often accounts in part for their explanatory power; and B is what it takes for some set of principles that govern the features of M’s parts in their arrangement in M all to be instanced together.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s13194-020-00284-y
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 50,118
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Explaining the Brain.Carl F. Craver - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
Actions, Reasons, and Causes.Donald Davidson - 1963 - Journal of Philosophy 60 (23):685.
Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter K. Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
Explanation: A Mechanist Alternative.William Bechtel - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biol and Biomed Sci 36 (2):421--441.
Explanation: A Mechanist Alternative.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (2):421-441.

View all 36 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Mechanisms, Ceteris Paribus Laws and Covering-Law Explanation.Nancy Cartwright, John Pemberton & Sarah Wieten - 2018 - Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science, Lse.
Mechanisms, Laws, and Regularities.Holly Andersen - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (2):325-331.
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.
When Mechanisms Are Not Enough: The Origin of Eukaryotes and Scientific Explanation.Roger Deulofeu & Javier Suárez - 2018 - In Alexander Christian, David Hommen, Gerhard Schurz & N. Retzlaff (eds.), Philosophy of Science. European Studies in Philosophy of Science, vol 9. Dordrecht, Netherlands: pp. 95-115.


Added to PP index

Total views
14 ( #642,968 of 2,324,566 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
14 ( #44,472 of 2,324,566 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes