When mechanistic models explain

Synthese 153 (3):355-376 (2006)
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Abstract

Not all models are explanatory. Some models are data summaries. Some models sketch explanations but leave crucial details unspecified or hidden behind filler terms. Some models are used to conjecture a how-possibly explanation without regard to whether it is a how-actually explanation. I use the Hodgkin and Huxley model of the action potential to illustrate these ways that models can be useful without explaining. I then use the subsequent development of the explanation of the action potential to show what is required of an adequate mechanistic model. Mechanistic models are explanatory

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Carl F. Craver
Washington University in St. Louis