In contemporary philosophy of science, the consensus view seems to be that scientific explanations describe mechanisms responsible for the phenomena to be explained. Two kinds of explanatory relevance figure in mechanistic accounts of explanation: causal and constitutive. Following prominent accounts, it seems natural to analyze both these relations in terms of systematic interventions into some factor X with respect to another factor Y. However, such interventions are tailored to uncover causal relations only. Construing the constitutive relationship between parts and wholes (...) in terms of interventions thus raises metaphysical, conceptual, and epistemological questions. We here review the barriers that intervention-based inquiry into mechanisms encounters and consider some solutions. (shrink)
A recent qualitative study published in Neuroethics by Schembs and colleagues explores how functional neurodiagnostics of consciousness inform surrogate decision making in cases of disorders of consciousness. In this commentary, we argue that the chosen methodology significantly limits the scope of the potential conclusions and suggest an embedded ethnographic approach of co-presence as an alternative.
In “The Mind Incarnate” Shapiro argues that research in the area of embodied, embedded mind and cognition undermines a functionalist program. In contrast Clark, in “Pressing the Flesh”, argues that embodied, embedded approaches can be viewed as extended functionalistic approaches. In the light of these arguments my thesis is devoted to elucidating the logical relation between functionalism and embodied, embedded approaches. I argue that the functionalist programme is not undermined by embodied and embedded approaches. Shapiro argues that research of embodied, (...) embedded cognition and mind shows that characteristics of embodiment determine characteristics of mind. I label this view the body-detail model. The consequence of this model is that the very same kind of mind cannot exist in bodies with different characteristics. Thus, having a humanlike mind requires a humanlike body. This conflicts with abstract versions of functionalism that endorse multiple realization: the idea that the same mind can exist in different kinds of bodies. I argue against the body-detail model, demonstrating that for each of the research projects presented by Shapiro the strong reading that one has to have a humanlike body to have a human mind is not justified. This paves the way for an alternative reading, represented by Clark, under which the body is recognized as being part of a larger system which overall operating profile determines mind. Arguments for this position involve argumentative extensions of functionalism. On this basis I conclude that functionalism is not undermined by embodied, embedded approaches. (shrink)