The Idealization of Causation in Mechanistic Explanation

Philosophy of Science 82 (5):761-774 (2015)
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Abstract

Causal relations among components and activities are intentionally misrepresented in mechanistic explanations found routinely across the life sciences. Since several mechanists explicitly advocate accurately representing factors that make a difference to the outcome, these idealizations conflict with the stated rationale for mechanistic explanation. We argue that these idealizations signal an overlooked feature of reasoning in molecular and cell biology—mechanistic explanations do not occur in isolation—and suggest that explanatory practices within the mechanistic tradition share commonalities with model-based approaches prevalent in population biology

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Alan Love
University of Minnesota

References found in this work

Explanation: a mechanist alternative.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (2):421-441.
The strategy of model-based science.Peter Godfrey-Smith - 2006 - Biology and Philosophy 21 (5):725-740.
Causes That Make a Difference.C. Kenneth Waters - 2007 - Journal of Philosophy 104 (11):551-579.
Abstraction and the Organization of Mechanisms.Arnon Levy & William Bechtel - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (2):241-261.
Mechanism and Biological Explanation.William Bechtel - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (4):533-557.

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