Synthese 191 (2):127-153 (2014)

Mazviita Chirimuuta
University of Pittsburgh
In a recent paper, Kaplan (Synthese 183:339–373, 2011) takes up the task of extending Craver’s (Explaining the brain, 2007) mechanistic account of explanation in neuroscience to the new territory of computational neuroscience. He presents the model to mechanism mapping (3M) criterion as a condition for a model’s explanatory adequacy. This mechanistic approach is intended to replace earlier accounts which posited a level of computational analysis conceived as distinct and autonomous from underlying mechanistic details. In this paper I discuss work in computational neuroscience that creates difficulties for the mechanist project. Carandini and Heeger (Nat Rev Neurosci 13:51–62, 2012) propose that many neural response properties can be understood in terms of canonical neural computations. These are “standard computational modules that apply the same fundamental operations in a variety of contexts.” Importantly, these computations can have numerous biophysical realisations, and so straightforward examination of the mechanisms underlying these computations carries little explanatory weight. Through a comparison between this modelling approach and minimal models in other branches of science, I argue that computational neuroscience frequently employs a distinct explanatory style, namely, efficient coding explanation. Such explanations cannot be assimilated into the mechanistic framework but do bear interesting similarities with evolutionary and optimality explanations elsewhere in biology
Keywords Neuroscience  Mechanism  Biology  Computation  Explanation
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-013-0369-y
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References found in this work BETA

The Language of Thought.Jerry A. Fodor - 1975 - Harvard University Press.
Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.

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Citations of this work BETA

Explanation in Computational Neuroscience: Causal and Non-Causal.M. Chirimuuta - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (3):849-880.

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