II—Mechanistic Explanation: Its Scope and Limits

Abstract

This paper explores the question of whether all or most explanations in biology are, or ideally should be, ‘mechanistic’. I begin by providing an account of mechanistic explanation, making use of the interventionist ideas about causation I have developed elsewhere. This account emphasizes the way in which mechanistic explanations, at least in the biological sciences, integrate difference‐making and spatio‐temporal information, and exhibit what I call fine‐tunedness of organization. I also emphasize the role played by modularity conditions in mechanistic explanation. I will then argue, in agreement with John Dupré, that, given this account, it is plausible that many biological systems require explanations that are relatively non‐mechanical or depart from expectations one associates with the behaviour of machines.

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James Woodward
University of Pittsburgh

References found in this work

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.

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