Philosophy of Science 68 (1):53-74 (2001)

Authors
Carl F. Craver
Washington University in St. Louis
Abstract
Many areas of science develop by discovering mechanisms and role functions. Cummins' (1975) analysis of role functions-according to which an item's role function is a capacity of that item that appears in an analytic explanation of the capacity of some containing system-captures one important sense of "function" in the biological sciences and elsewhere. Here I synthesize Cummins' account with recent work on mechanisms and causal/mechanical explanation. The synthesis produces an analysis of specifically mechanistic role functions, one that uses the characteristic active, spatial, temporal, and hierarchical organization of mechanisms to add precision and content to Cummins' original suggestion. This synthesis also shows why the discovery of role functions is a scientific achievement. Discovering a role function (i) contributes to the interlevel integration of multilevel mechanisms, and (ii) provides a unique, contextual variety of causal/mechanical explanation
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DOI 10.1086/392866
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References found in this work BETA

Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
Functional Analysis.Robert Cummins - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.
The Mismeasure of Man.Stephen Jay Gould - 1984 - Journal of the History of Biology 17 (1):141-145.
Discovery and Explanation in Biology and Medicine.Kenneth F. Schaffner - 1995 - Journal of the History of Biology 28 (1):172-174.

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Citations of this work BETA

Rethinking Mechanistic Explanation.Stuart Glennan - 2002 - Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002 (3):S342-353.
Top-Down Causation Without Top-Down Causes.Carl F. Craver & William Bechtel - 2007 - Biology and Philosophy 22 (4):547-563.
The Ontic Account of Scientific Explanation.Carl F. Craver - 2014 - In Marie I. Kaiser, Oliver R. Scholz, Daniel Plenge & Andreas Hüttemann (eds.), Explanation in the Special Sciences: The Case of Biology and History. Springer Verlag. pp. 27-52.

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