David Colaco
Mississippi State University
In this paper, I investigate how researchers evaluate their characterizations of scientific phenomena. Characterizing phenomena is an important – albeit often overlooked – aspect of scientific research, as phenomena are targets of explanation and theorization. As a result, there is a lacuna in the literature regarding how researchers determine whether their characterization of a target phenomenon is appropriate for their aims. This issue has become apparent for accounts of scientific explanation that take phenomena to be explananda. In particular, philosophers who endorse mechanistic explanation suggest that the discovery of the mechanisms that explain a phenomenon can lead to its recharacterization. However, they fail to make clear how these explanations provide warrant for recharacterizing their explananda phenomena. Drawing from cases of neurobiological research on potentiation phenomena, I argue that attempting to explain a phenomenon may provide reason to suspend judgment about its characterization, but this cannot provide warrant to recharacterize it if researchers cannot infer a phenomenon’s characteristics from this explanation. To explicate this, I go beyond explanation – mechanistic or otherwise – to analyze why and how researchers change their epistemic commitments in light of new evidence.
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DOI 10.1007/s13194-020-0279-z
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Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter K. Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.

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