In Phyllis McKay Illari, Federica Russo & Jon Williamson (eds.), Causality in the Sciences. Oxford University Press (2011)

Authors
Meinard Kuhlmann
Bielefeld University
Abstract
In recent debates mechanisms are often discussed in the context of ‘complex systems’ which are understood as having a complicated compositional structure. I want to draw the attention to another, radically different kind of complex system, in fact one that many scientists regard as the only genuine kind of complex system. Instead of being compositionally complex these systems rather exhibit highly non-trivial dynamical patterns on the basis of structurally simple arrangements of large numbers of non-linearly interacting constituents. The characteristic dynamical patterns in what I call “dynamically complex systems” arise from the interaction of the system’s parts largely irrespective of many properties of these parts. Dynamically complex systems can exhibit surprising statistical characteristics, the robustness of which calls for an explanation in terms of underlying generating mechanisms. However, I want to argue, dynamically complex systems are not sufficiently covered by the available conceptions of mechanisms. I will explore how the notion of a mechanism has to be modified to accommodate this case. Moreover, I will show under which conditions the widespread, if not inflationary talk about mechanisms in complex systems stretches the notion of mechanisms beyond its reasonable limits and is no longer legitimate.
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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.
Making Things Happen. A Theory of Causal Explanation.Michael Strevens - 2007 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (1):233-249.
Explanation: A Mechanist Alternative.William Bechtel - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biol and Biomed Sci 36 (2):421--441.

View all 12 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

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.
Mechanistic Explanation in Systems Biology: Cellular Networks.Dana Matthiessen - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (1):1-25.
The Causal Nature of Modeling with Big Data.Wolfgang Pietsch - 2016 - Philosophy and Technology 29 (2):137-171.
Not-So-Minimal Models: Between Isolation and Imagination.Lorenzo Casini - 2014 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 44 (5):646-672.

View all 8 citations / Add more citations

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