In Methodological Prospects for Scientific Research. pp. 141-165 (2020)

Javier Suárez
Jagiellonian University
Recent research in philosophy of science has shown that scientists rely on a plurality of strategies to develop successful explanations of different types of phenomena. In the case of biology, most of these strategies go far beyond the traditional and reductionistic models of scientific explanation that have proven so successful in the fundamental sciences. Concretely, in the last two decades, philosophers of science have discovered the existence of at least two different types of scientific explanation at work in the biological sciences, namely: mechanistic and structural explanations. Despite the growing evidence about the radically different nature of these two types of explanation, no inquiry has been conducted to date to determine the ontological reasons that might underlie these differences, nor the way in which these types of explanations can be systematically related with each other. Here, we aim to cover this gap by connecting this plurality of research strategies with the existence of emergent levels of reality. We argue that the existence of these different—and apparently incompatible—explanatory strategies to account for biological phenomena derives from the existence of “ontological jumps” in nature, which generate different regimes of causation that in turn demand the development of different explanatory frameworks. We identify two of these strategies—mechanistic modelling and network modelling—and connect them to the existence of two ontological regimes of causation. Finally, we relate them with each other in a systematic way. In this vein, our paper provides an ontological justification for the plurality of explanatory strategies that we see in the life sciences.
Keywords scientific explanation  mechanism  structural explanation  networks  emergence
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,039
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Descriptive understanding and prediction in COVID-19 modelling.Johannes Findl & Javier Suárez - 2021 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 43 (4):1-31.
Autonomous Systems and the Place of Biology Among Sciences. Perspectives for an Epistemology of Complex Systems.Leonardo Bich - 2021 - In Gianfranco Minati (ed.), Multiplicity and Interdisciplinarity. Essays in Honor of Eliano Pessa. Springer. pp. 41-57.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Biological Explanation.Angela Potochnik - 2013 - In Kostas Kampourakis (ed.), The Philosophy of Biology: A Companion for Educators. Springer. pp. 49-65.
Mechanistic Artefact Explanation.Jeroen de Ridder - 2006 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 37 (1):81-96.
Analysing Network Models to Make Discoveries About Biological Mechanisms.William Bechtel - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (2):459-484.
Systems Biology and Mechanistic Explanation.Ingo Brigandt, Sara Green & Maureen O'Malley - 2018 - In Stuart Glennan & Phyllis McKay Illari (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Mechanisms and Mechanical Philosophy. New York: Routledge. pp. 362–374.
Causal Concepts in Biology: How Pathways Differ From Mechanisms and Why It Matters.Lauren N. Ross - 2021 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 72 (1):131-158.
“Looking Up” and “Looking Down”: On the Dual Character of Mechanistic Explanations.Kari Theurer - 2018 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 49 (3):371-392.


Added to PP index

Total views
22 ( #512,827 of 2,505,624 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
4 ( #169,997 of 2,505,624 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes