On closing the gap between philosophical concepts and their usage in scientific practice: a lesson from the debate about natural selection as a mechanism

Authors
Lucas J. Matthews
University of Virginia
Abstract
In addition to theorizing about the role and value of mechanisms in scientific explanation or the causal structure of the world, there is a fundamental task of getting straight what a ‘mechanism’ is in the first place. Broadly, this paper is about the challenge of application: the challenge of aligning one's philosophical account of a scientific concept with the manner in which that concept is actually used in scientific practice. This paper considers a case study of the challenge of application as it pertains to the concept of a mechanism: the debate about whether natural selection is a mechanism. By making clear what is and is not at stake in this debate, this paper considers various strategies for dealing with the challenge of application and makes a case for definitional pluralism about mechanism concepts.
Keywords natural selection  mechanism  explanation  causality  methodology  mechanistic explanation
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2015.11.012
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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.
Causation.David Lewis - 1973 - Journal of Philosophy 70 (17):556-567.
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Rethinking Mechanistic Explanation.Stuart Glennan - 2002 - Philosophy of Science 69 (S3):S342-S353.

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