Minds and Machines 28 (2) (2018)

Jason Winning
University of Toronto, St. George Campus
William Bechtel
University of California, San Diego
Existing accounts of mechanistic causation are not suited for understanding causation in biological and neural mechanisms because they do not have the resources to capture the unique causal structure of control heterarchies. In this paper, we provide a new account on which the causal powers of mechanisms are grounded by time-dependent, variable constraints. Constraints can also serve as a key bridge concept between the mechanistic approach to explanation and underappreciated work in theoretical biology that sheds light on how biological systems channel energy to actively respond to the environment in adaptive ways, perform work, and fulfill the requirements to maintain themselves far from equilibrium. We show how the framework applies to several concrete examples of control in simple organisms as well as the nervous system of complex organisms.
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DOI 10.1007/s11023-018-9458-5
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References found in this work BETA

Nature's Capacities and Their Measurement.Nancy Cartwright - 1989 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
The New Mechanical Philosophy.Stuart Glennan - 2017 - Oxford University Press.

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Resonance and Radical Embodiment.Vicente Raja - 2020 - Synthese 199 (Suppl 1):113-141.

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