Synthese 195 (1):147-173 (2018)

Authors
Abstract
Medical explanations have often been thought on the model of biological ones and are frequently defined as mechanistic explanations of a biological dysfunction. In this paper, I argue that topological explanations, which have been described in ecology or in cognitive sciences, can also be found in medicine and I discuss the relationships between mechanistic and topological explanations in medicine, through the example of network medicine and medical genetics. Network medicine is a recent discipline that relies on the analysis of various disease networks in order to find organizing principles in disease explanation. My aim is to show how topological explanations in network medicine can help solving the conceptual issues that pure mechanistic explanations of the genetics of disease are currently facing, namely the crisis of the concept of genetic disease, the progressive geneticization of diseases and the dissolution of the distinction between monogenic and polygenic diseases. However, I will also argue that topological explanations should not be considered as independent and radically different from mechanistic explanations for at least two reasons. First, in network medicine, topological explanations depend on and use mechanistic information. Second, they leave out some missing gaps in disease explanation that require, in turn, the development of new mechanistic explanations. Finally, I will insist on the specific contribution of topological explanations in medicine: they push us to develop an explanation of disease in general, instead of focusing on single explanations of individual diseases. This last point may have major consequences for biomedical research.
Keywords Philosophy of science  Philosophy of medicine  Mechanistic explanation  Topological explanation  Network medicine  Genetic disease  Geneticization
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11229-015-0983-y
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 50,118
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter K. Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
Explanation: A Mechanist Alternative.William Bechtel - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biol and Biomed Sci 36 (2):421--441.
Explanation: A Mechanist Alternative.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (2):421-441.
Abstraction and the Organization of Mechanisms.Arnon Levy & William Bechtel - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (2):241-261.

View all 29 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Research Traditions and Evolutionary Explanations in Medicine.Pierre-Olivier Méthot - 2011 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 32 (1):75-90.
The Geneticization of Diagnostics.William E. Stempsey - 2005 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 9 (2):193-200.
Mechanistic Explanation in Engineering Science.Dingmar van Eck - 2015 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 5 (3):349-375.
The Nature of Dynamical Explanation.Carlos Zednik - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (2):238-263.
The Completeness of Mechanistic Explanations.Tudor M. Baetu - 2015 - Philosophy of Science 82 (5):775-786.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2015-12-29

Total views
71 ( #128,829 of 2,324,551 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
12 ( #52,721 of 2,324,551 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes