Relevant Bounds on Hierarchical Levels in the Description of Mechanisms


Abstract
Mechanisms pervade the sciences, and a significant portion of scientific research is concerned with their discovery and description. This paper is concerned with the latter, categorizing the components that should be included in the description of a mechanism. In describing mechanisms, the question of relevant level of description often arises; the question is where, if anywhere, one should halt a reductionist approach. In this paper, I propose a framework for mechanistic description that identifies the 'relevant' hierarchical levels of a mechanism based on their contributions to the functionality of the mechanism's endproduct. Mechanisms culminate in an endproduct, be it an activity or an entity, and that endproduct has qualities that allow it to participate in certain subsequent (or higher level) mechanisms. The proposed framework takes into account the level of description necessary to result in a functional endproduct; that is, an endproduct that exhibits the enabling properties required for it to fulfill its known roles in other mechanisms. Adhering to this framework results in a mechanistic description containing only the components that directly contribute to endproduct functionality. By constraining the hierarchical level of the description, the mechanistic sequence is clarified and made practical for many research applications where inadvertent focus on irrelevant details can prove costly
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