Stephan Hartmann
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München
Matteo Colombo
Tilburg University
Life-science phenomena are often explained by specifying the mechanisms that bring them about. The new mechanistic philosophers have done much to substantiate this claim and to provide us with a better understanding of what mechanisms are and how they explain. Although there is disagreement among current mechanists on various issues, they share a common core position and a seeming commitment to some form of scientific realism. But is such a commitment necessary? Is it the best way to go about mechanistic explanation? In this article, we propose an alternative antirealist account that also fits explanatory practice in the life sciences. We pay special attention to mechanistic models, i.e. scientific models that involve a mechanism, and to the role of coherence considerations in building such models. To illustrate our points, we consider the mechanism for the action potential. 1 Introduction2 Some Core Features of Mechanistic Explanation3 Scientific Realism and Mechanistic Explanation4 Antirealist Mechanistic Explanation: The Case of the Action Potential5 Some Outstanding Issues for the Antirealist Mechanist6 Two Problems for the Realist Mechanist7 Conclusions.
Keywords Mechanistic explanation  Realism  Coherence
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2015
DOI 10.1093/bjps/axt043
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 71,355
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - University of Chicago Press.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas Samuel Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
The Structure of Empirical Knowledge.Laurence BonJour - 1985 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.

View all 72 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Against Computational Perspectivalism.Dimitri Coelho Mollo - 2021 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 72 (4):1129-1153.

View all 11 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Formal Models of Coherence and Legal Epistemology.Amalia Amaya - 2007 - Artificial Intelligence and Law 15 (4):429-447.
Mechanisms, Coherence, and Theory Choice in the Cognitive Neurosciences.Stephan Hartmann - 2001 - In Peter Machamer (ed.), Theory and Method in the Neurosciences. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. pp. 70-80.
The Role of Coherence in Legal Reasoning.Barbara Baum Levenbook - 1984 - Law and Philosophy 3 (3):355 - 374.
Explaining the Limits of Olsson's Impossibility Result.Gregory Wheeler - 2012 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 50 (1):136-150.
Coherence and Explanations.Thomas Bartelborth - 1999 - Erkenntnis 50 (2-3):209-224.
Measuring Coherence Using LP-Models.Carlos A. OLLER - 2004 - Journal of Applied Logic 2 (4):451-455.
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.
The Concept of Unit Coherence and Its Application to Psychology Theories.David Trafimow - 2012 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 42 (2):131-154.


Added to PP index

Total views
122 ( #97,097 of 2,519,520 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #205,550 of 2,519,520 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes