Synthese 193 (5):1387-1407 (2016)
AbstractThere have been recent disagreements in the philosophy of neuroscience regarding which sorts of scientific models provide mechanistic explanations, and which do not. These disagreements often hinge on two commonly adopted, but conflicting, ways of understanding mechanistic explanations: what I call the “representation-as” account, and the “representation-of” account. In this paper, I argue that neither account does justice to neuroscientific practice. In their place, I offer a new alternative that can defuse some of these disagreements. I argue that individual models do not provide mechanistic explanations by themselves. Instead, individual models are always used to complement a huge body of background information and pre-existing models about the target system. With this in mind, I argue that mechanistic explanations are distributed across sets of different, and sometimes contradictory, scientific models. Each of these models contributes limited, but essential, information to the same mechanistic explanation, but none can be considered a mechanistic explanation in isolation of the others
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References found in this work
Explaining the Brain: Mechanisms and the Mosaic Unity of Neuroscience.Carl F. Craver - 2007 - Oxford University Press, Clarendon Press.
Simulation and Similarity: Using Models to Understand the World.Michael Weisberg - 2013 - Oxford University Press.
Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
Idealization and the Aims of Science.Angela Potochnik - 2017 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Citations of this work
Are More Details Better? On the Norms of Completeness for Mechanistic Explanations.Carl F. Craver & David M. Kaplan - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (1):287-319.
Decoupling Topological Explanations From Mechanisms.Daniel Kostic & Kareem Khalifa - forthcoming - Philosophy of Science:1-39.
Mechanism, Autonomy and Biological Explanation.Leonardo Bich & William Bechtel - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (6):1-27.
Integrating Philosophy of Understanding with the Cognitive Sciences.Kareem Khalifa, Farhan Islam, J. P. Gamboa, Daniel Wilkenfeld & Daniel Kostić - 2022 - Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience 16.
Unification Strategies in Cognitive Science.Marcin Miłkowski - 2016 - Studies in Logic, Grammar and Rhetoric 48 (1):13–33.
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