The concept of mechanism in biology has three distinct meanings. It may refer to a philosophical thesis about the nature of life and biology (‘mechanicism’), to the internal workings of a machine-like structure (‘machine mechanism’), or to the causal explanation of a particular phenomenon (‘causal mechanism’). In this paper I trace the conceptual evolution of ‘mechanism’ in the history of biology, and I examine how the three meanings of this term have come to be featured in (...) the philosophy of biology, situating the new ‘mechanismic program’ in this context. I argue that the leading advocates of the mechanismic program (i.e., Craver, Darden, Bechtel, etc.) inadvertently conflate the different senses of ‘mechanism’. Specifically, they all inappropriately endow causal mechanisms with the ontic status of machine mechanisms, and this invariably results in problematic accounts of the role played by mechanism-talk in scientific practice. I suggest that for effective analyses of the concept of mechanism, causal mechanisms need to be distinguished from machine mechanisms, and the new mechanismic program in the philosophy of biology needs to be demarcated from the traditional concerns of mechanistic biology. (shrink)
We sketch a framework for building a unified science of cognition. This unification is achieved by showing how functional analyses of cognitive capacities can be integrated with the multilevel mechanistic explanations of neural systems. The core idea is that functional analyses are sketches of mechanisms , in which some structural aspects of a mechanistic explanation are omitted. Once the missing aspects are filled in, a functional analysis turns into a full-blown mechanistic explanation. By this process, functional analyses are seamlessly integrated (...) with multilevel mechanistic explanations. (shrink)
This paper advances the thesis of methodological mechanism, the claim that to be committed to mechanism is to adopt a certain methodological postulate, i.e. to look for causal pathways for the phenomena of interest. We argue that methodological mechanism incorporates a minimal account of understanding mechanisms, according to which a mechanism just is a causal pathway described in the language of theory. In order to argue for this position we discuss a central example of a biological (...)mechanism, the mechanism of cell death, known as apoptosis. We argue that this example shows that our philosophically deflationary account is sufficient in order to have an illuminating account of mechanisms as the concept is used in biology. (shrink)
We examine physicists’ charge of ad hocness against the Higgs mechanism in the standard model of elementary particle physics. We argue that even though this charge never rested on a clear-cut and well-entrenched definition of “ad hoc”, it is based on conceptual and methodological assumptions and principles that are well-founded elements of the scientific practice of high-energy particle physics. We further evaluate the implications of the recent discovery of a Higgs-like particle at the CERN’s Large Hadron Collider for the (...) charge of ad hocness against the Higgs mechanism. (shrink)
The Higgs mechanism is an essential but elusive component of the Standard Model of particle physics. Without it Yang‐Mills gauge theories would have been little more than a warm‐up exercise in the attempt to quantize gravity rather than serving as the basis for the Standard Model. This article focuses on two problems related to the Higgs mechanism clearly posed in Earman’s recent papers (Earman 2003, 2004a, 2004b): what is the gauge‐invariant content of the Higgs mechanism, and what (...) does it mean to break a local gauge symmetry? (shrink)
In what follows, I suggest that it makes good sense to think of the truth of the probabilistic generalizations made in the life sciences as metaphysically grounded in stochastic mechanisms in the world. To further understand these stochastic mechanisms, I take the general characterization of mechanism offered by MDC :1–25, 2000) and explore how it fits with several of the going philosophical accounts of chance: subjectivism, frequentism, Lewisian best-systems, and propensity. I argue that neither subjectivism, frequentism, nor a best-system-style (...) interpretation of chance will give us what we need from an account of stochastic mechanism, but some version of propensity theory can. I then draw a few important lessons from recent propensity interpretations of fitness in order to present a novel propensity interpretation of stochastic mechanism according to which stochastic mechanisms are thought to have probabilistic propensities to produce certain outcomes over others. This understanding of stochastic mechanism, once fully fleshed-out, provides the benefits of allowing the stochasticity of a particular mechanism to be an objective property in the world, a property investigable by science, a way of quantifying the stochasticity of a particular mechanism, and a way to avoid a problematic commitment to the causal efficacy of propensities. (shrink)
In this article, I present a novel approach to the scientific understanding of consciousness. It is based on the hypothesis that the full range of phenomenal qualities is built into the frequency spectrum of a ubiquitous background field and proceeds on the assumption that conscious systems employ a universal mechanism by means of which they are able to extract phenomenal nuances selectively from this field. I set forth that in the form of the zero-point field (ZPF) physics can offer (...) a promising candidate that is qualified for playing the dual role as both the carrier of energy and consciousness. The appropriate mechanism, which rests upon the principle of dynamical coupling of ZPF modes, is a unique feature of quantum systems, suggesting that the dividing line between conscious and non-conscious systems is defined by the differentiation between quantum systems and classical systems. The presence of this mechanism in the brain is supported by the neurophysiological body of evidence, leading to a consistent explanation of the dynamical properties of the neural correlates of consciousness. Building on these findings, I lay the foundations for the conceptually coherent integration of consciousness into the physical worldview, derive an indicator for the quantity of consciousness of a given system, and outline the further steps toward a theory of consciousness. (shrink)
Much contemporary debate on the nature of mechanisms centers on the issue of modulating negative causes. One type of negative causability, which I refer to as “causation by absence,” appears difficult to incorporate into modern accounts of mechanistic explanation. This paper argues that a recent attempt to resolve this problem, proposed by Benjamin Barros, requires improvement as it overlooks the fact that not all absences qualify as sources of mechanism failure. I suggest that there are a number of additional (...) types of effects caused by absences that need to be incorporated to account for the diversity of causal connections in the biological sciences. Furthermore, it is argued that recognizing natural variability in mechanisms, such as attenuation, leads to some interesting line-drawing issues for contemporary philosophy of mechanisms. (shrink)
Skipper and Millstein analyze natural selection and mechanism, concluding that natural selection is not a mechanism in the sense of the new mechanistic philosophy. Barros disagrees and provides his own account of natural selection as a mechanism. This discussion identifies a missing piece of Barros's account, attempts to fill in that piece, and reconsiders the revised account. Two principal objections are developed: one, the account does not characterize natural selection; two, the account is not mechanistic. Extensive and (...) persistent variability causes both of these difficulties, so further attempts to describe natural selection as a mechanism are also unlikely to succeed. (shrink)
Embodied cognition has attracted significant attention within cognitive science and related fields in recent years. It is most noteworthy for its emphasis on the inextricable connection between mental functioning and embodied activity and thus for its departure from standard cognitive science's implicit commitment to the unembodied mind. This article offers a review of embodied cognition's recent empirical and theoretical contributions and suggests how this movement has moved beyond standard cognitive science. The article then clarifies important respects in which embodied cognition (...) has not departed fundamentally from the standard view. A shared commitment to representationalism, and ultimately, mechanism, suggest that the standard and embodied cognition movements are more closely related than is commonly acknowledged. Arguments against representationalism and mechanism are reviewed and an alternative position that does not entail these conceptual undergirdings is offered. (shrink)
The current antireductionist consensus rests in part on the indefensibility of the deductive-nomological model of explanation, on which classical reductionism depends. I argue that the DN model is inessential to the reductionist program and that mechanism provides a better framework for thinking about reductionism. This runs counter to the contemporary mechanists’ claim that mechanism is an alternative to reductionism. I demonstrate that mechanists are committed to reductionism, as evidenced by the historical roots of the contemporary mechanist program. This (...) view shares certain core commitments with reductionism. It is these shared commitments that constitute the essential elements of the reductionist program. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to examine the usefulness of the Machamer, Darden, and Craver (2000) mechanism approach to gaining an understanding of explanation in cognitive neuroscience. We argue that although the mechanism approach can capture many aspects of explanation in cognitive neuroscience, it cannot capture everything. In particular, it cannot completely capture all aspects of the content and significance of mental representations or the evaluative features constitutive of psychopathology.
Accounts of ontic explanation have often been devised so as to provide an understanding of mechanism and of causation. Ontic accounts differ quite radically in their ontologies, and one of the latest additions to this tradition proposed by Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden and Carl Craver reintroduces the concept of activity. In this paper I ask whether this influential and activity-based account of mechanisms is viable as an ontic account. I focus on polygenic scenarios—scenarios in which the causal truths depend (...) on more than one cause. The importance of polygenic causation was noticed early on by Mill (1893). It has since been shown to be a problem for both causal-law approaches to causation (Cartwright 1983) and accounts of causation cast in terms of capacities (Dupré 1993; Glennan 1997, pp. 605-626). However, whereas mechanistic accounts seem to be attractive precisely because they promise to handle complicated causal scenarios, polygenic causation needs to be examined more thoroughly in the emerging literature on activity-based mechanisms. The activity-based account proposed in Machamer et al. (2000, pp. 1-25) is problematic as an ontic account, I will argue. It seems necessary to ask, of any ontic account, how well it performs in causal situations where—at the explanandum level of mechanism—no activity occurs. In addition, it should be asked how well the activity-based account performs in situations where there are too few activities around to match the polygenic causal origin of the explanandum. The first situation presents an explanandum-problem and the second situation presents an explanans-problem—I will argue—both of which threaten activity-based frameworks. (shrink)
Long-Term Potentiation (LTP) is a kind of synaptic plasticity that many contemporary neuroscientists believe is a component in mechanisms of memory. This essay describes the discovery of LTP and the development of the LTP research program. The story begins in the 1950's with the discovery of synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus (a medial temporal lobe structure now associated with memory), and it ends in 1973 with the publication of three papers sketching the future course of the LTP research program. The (...) making of LTP was a protracted affair. Hippocampal synaptic plasticity was initially encountered as an experimental tool, then reported as a curiosity, and finally included in the ontic store of the neurosciences. Early researchers were not investigating the hippocampus in search of a memory mechanism; rather, they saw the hippocampus as a useful experimental model or as a structure implicated in the etiology of epilepsy. The link between hippocampal synaptic plasticity and learning or memory was a separate conceptual achievement. That link was formulated in at least three different ways at different times: reductively (claiming that plasticity is identical to learning), analogically (claiming that plasticity is an example or model of learning), and mechanistically (claiming that plasticity is a component in learning or memory mechanisms). The hypothesized link with learning or memory, coupled with developments in experimental techniques and preparations, shaped how researchers understood LTP itself. By 1973, the mechanistic formulation of the link between LTP and memory provided an abstract framework around which findings from multiple perspectives could be integrated into a multifield research program. (shrink)
Is organicism inherently Christian-friendly, and for that matter, is mechanism inherently religion nonfriendly? They have tended to be, but the story is much more complicated. The long history of the intertwined metaphors of nature taken as an organism, versus that of nature as a machine, reveals that both metaphors have flourished in the endeavors of philosophers, scientists, and persons of faith alike. Different kinds of Christians have been receptive to both organicist and mechanistic models, just as various kinds of (...) nonreligious scientists have been receptive to both holistic and machine metaphors. Although, it is true, organicism has been generally more attractive to persons of faith than mechanism, an overview of the rich and varied history of allegiances to these metaphors—religious and nonreligious alike—shows that debate is much more interesting and complex. A brief inspection of conversation surrounding recent scientific discoveries shows that this debate between metaphors is still very much alive today. (shrink)
Sections 3.16 and 3.23 of Roger Penrose's Shadows of the mind (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1994) contain a subtle and intriguing new argument against mechanism, the thesis that the human mind can be accurately modeled by a Turing machine. The argument, based on the incompleteness theorem, is designed to meet standard objections to the original Lucas-Penrose formulations. The new argument, however, seems to invoke an unrestricted truth predicate (and an unrestricted knowability predicate). If so, its premises are inconsistent. The (...) usual ways of restricting the predicates either invalidate Penrose's reasoning or require presuppositions that the mechanist can reject. (shrink)
After a decade of intense debate about mechanisms, there is still no consensus characterization. In this paper we argue for a characterization that applies widely to mechanisms across the sciences. We examine and defend our disagreements with the major current contenders for characterizations of mechanisms. Ultimately, we indicate that the major contenders can all sign up to our characterization.
I note the multitude of ways in which, beginning with the classic paper by Machamer et al., the mechanists have qualify their methodological dicta, and limit the vulnerability of their claims by strategic vagueness regarding their application. I go on to generalize a version of the mechanist requirement on explanations due to Craver and Kaplan :601–627, 2011) in cognitive and systems neuroscience so that it applies broadly across the life sciences in accordance with the view elaborated by Craver and Darden (...) in In Search of Mechanisms. I then go on to explore what ramifications their mechanist requirement on explanations may have for explanatory “dependencies” reported in biology and the special sciences. What this exploration suggests is that mechanism threatens to eliminate instead of underwrite a large number of such “dependencies” reported in higher-levels of biology and the special sciences. I diagnose the source of this threat in mechanism’s demand that explanations identify nested causal differences makers in mechanisms, their components, the components further components, and so forth. Finally, I identify the “love–hate” relationship mechanism must have with functional explanation, and show how it makes mechanism an extremely interesting thesis indeed. (shrink)
Constructivists about memory argue that memory is a capacity for building representations of past events from a generalized information store. The view is motivated by the memory errors discovered in cognitive psychology. Little has been known about the neural mechanisms by which false memories are produced. Recently, using a method I call the Optogenetic False Memory Technique, neuroscientists have created false memories in mice. In this paper, I examine how Constructivism fares in light of O-FaMe results. My aims are two-fold. (...) First, I argue that errors found in O-FaMe and cognitive psychology are similar behaviorally. Second, Constructivists should be able to explain the former since they purport to explain the latter, but they cannot. I conclude that O-FaMe studies reveal details about the mechanism by which false memories are produced that are incompatible with the explanatory approach to false memories favored by Constructivism. (shrink)
The reversibility problem (better known as the reversibility objection) is usually taken to be an internal problem in the kinetic theory of gases, namely the problem of how to account for the second law of thermodynamics within this theory. Historically, it is seen as an objection that was raised against Boltzmann's kinetic theory of gases, which led Boltzmann to a statistical approach to the kinetic theory, culminating in the development of statistical mechanics. In this paper, I show that in the (...) late nineteenth century, the reversibility problem had a much broader significance - it was widely discussed and certainly not only as an objection to Boltzmann's kinetic theory of gases. In this period, there was a conflict between mechanism and irreversibility in physics which was tied up with central issues in philosophy of science such as materialism, empiricism and the need for mechanistic foundations of physical theories, as well as with concerns about the heat death of the universe. I discuss how this conflict was handled by the major physicists of the period, such as Maxwell, Kelvin, Duhem, Poincaré, Mach and Planck, as well as by a number of lesser-known authors. (shrink)
In this note, I briefly review Lyre's analysis and interpretation of the Higgs mechanism. Contrary to Lyre, I maintain that, on the proper understanding of the term, the Higgs mechanism refers to a physical process in the course of which gauge bosons acquire a mass. Since also Lyre's worries about imaginary masses can be dismissed, a realistic interpretation of the Higgs mechanism seems viable.
Abduction and metaphor are two significant concepts in cognitive science. It is found that the both mental processes are on the basis of certain similarity. The similarity inspires us to seek the answers to the following two questions: (1) Whether there is a common cognitive mechanism behind abduction and metaphor? And (2) if there is, whether this common mechanism could be interpreted within the unified frame of modern intelligence theory? Centering on these two issues, the paper attempts to (...) characterize and interpret the generation and evolution of scientific metaphors from the perspective of the cognitive mechanism of abductive inference. Then it interprets the common cognitive mechanism behind abduction and metaphor within Hawkins’ frame of intelligence theory. The commonality between abduction and metaphor indicates the potential to further explore human intelligence. (shrink)
PROFESSOR LEWIS 1 and Professor Coder 2 criticize my use of GĂ¶del's theorem to refute Mechanism. 3 Their criticisms are valuable. In order to meet them I need to show more clearly both what the tactic of my argument is at one crucial point and the general aim of the whole manoeuvre.
Many philosophers and medical scientists assume thatdisease categories or entities used to classify concrete cases ofdisease, are often defined by disease mechanisms or causalprocesses. Others suggest that diseases should always be definedin this manner. This paper discusses these standpoints criticallyand concludes that they are untenable, not only when `diseasemechanism' refers to an objective mechanism, but also when`mechanism' refers to a pragmatically demarcated part of thetotal ``objective'' causal structure of diseases. As an alternativeto principles that use the concept of (...) disease mechanism oranalogous concepts, a pragmatic approach is suggested anddescribed. This approach has been suggested before, but inproblematic or inadequate versions. This paper proposes a versioncompiled of two ``pragmatic principles'' and shows that they aremuch more adequate than the principle of disease mechanism. Withreference to a case study of a still ongoing internationaldiscussion of various candidates for a classification system formalignant lymphomas, including REAL (Revised European–AmericanClassification of Lymphoid Neoplasms) in which the concept ofdisease mechanism or analogous concepts plays a very small part,it is shown just how pivotal these two pragmatic principles canbe in actual discussions of definitions of diseases. Finally, itis pointed out that with regard to modern philosophy of languageit may, at least in some cases, be problematic to distinguishbetween the two pragmatic principles as they stand. (shrink)
This article, the first of a two-part essay, presents an account of Aristotelian hylomorphic animalism that engages with recent work on neuroscience and philosophy of mind. I show that Aristotelian hylomorphic animalism is compatible with the new mechanist approach to neuroscience and psychology, but that it is incompatible with strong emergentism in the philosophy of mind. I begin with the basic claims of Aristotelian hylomorphic animalism and focus on its understanding of psychological powers embodied in the nervous system. Next, I (...) introduce the new mechanist approach to neuroscience and psychology and illustrate how it can enrich the more abstract ontological framework of Aristotelian hylomorphic animalism. In the third section of this article I establish in detail the many ways Aristotelian hylomorphic animalism is incompatible with strong emergentism in the philosophy of mind. Based on these fundamental differences I show why a criticism leveled against emergentism by the new mechanist philosophy does not hamper my proposed rapprochement between hylomorphism and the new mechanist philosophy. This conclusion, however, leaves untouched the problem I address in the second article, namely, is the new mechanist philosophy compatible with Aristotelian philosophical anthropology’s contention that intellectual operations are immaterial and interact with the psychosomatic operations of the rational animal? (shrink)
This article has two aims. First, I undertake an extensive review of the Higgs mechanism and its connections with spontaneous symmetry breaking and the Goldstone theorem. I take the opportunity to expound and discuss a certain number of philosophical issues, amongst them surplus structure and redundancies. Second, I offer a defence of the metaphor according to which ‘gauge fields eat Goldstone bosons to gain a mass’ as sensible rather than merely misleading. It is sensible because there is a direct (...) physical correspondence between the longitudinal polarization of massive gauge fields and Goldstone bosons, which is not merely set by a gauge-fixing procedure. In these terms, I wish to argue that the mechanism which allows for the discovery of the Higgs boson has more than merely heuristic and methodological virtue. (shrink)
On the occasion of the recent experimental detection of a Higgs-type particle at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the paper reviews philosophical aspects of the Higgs mechanism as the presently preferred account of the generation of particle masses in the Standard Model of elementary particle physics and its most discussed extensions. The paper serves a twofold purpose: on the one hand, it offers an introduction to the Higgs mechanism and its most interesting philosophical aspects to readers not (...) familiar with it; on the other hand, it clarifies widespread misunderstandings related to the role of gauge symmetries and their breaking in it. (shrink)
Confronted with problems or situations that do not yield toknown theories and world views, scientists and students are alike. Theyare rarely able to directly build a model or a theory thereof. Rather,they must find ways to make sense of the circumstances using theircurrent knowledge and adjusting what is recognized in the process. Thisway of thinking, using past ways of perceiving the physical world tobuild new ones does not follow a logical path and cannot be described astheory revision. Likewise, in many (...) situations it is awkward, indeedoften impossible, to resort to analogical reasoning to account for it.This paper presents a new mechanism, called `tunnel effect', that mayexplain, in part, how scientists and students reason while constructinga new conceptual domain. `Tunnel effect' is also contrasted withanalogical reasoning. (shrink)
The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries marks a period of transition between the vitalistic ontology that had dominated Renaissance natural philosophy and the Early Modern mechanistic paradigm endorsed by, among others, the Cartesians and Newtonians. This paper will focus on how the tensions between vitalism and mechanism played themselves out in the context of sixteenth and seventeenth century chemistry and chemical philosophy, particularly in the works of Paracelsus, Jan Baptista Van Helmont, Robert Fludd, and Robert Boyle. Rather than argue that (...) these natural philosophers each embraced either fully vitalistic or fully mechanistic ontologies, I hope to demonstrate that these thinkers adhered to complicated and nuanced ontologies that cannot be described in either purely vitalistic or purely mechanistic terms. A central feature of my argument is the claim that a corpuscularian theory of matter does not entail a strictly mechanistic and reductionistic account of chemical properties. I also argue that what marks the shift from pre-modern vitalistic chemical philosophy to the modern chemical philosophy that marked the Chemical Revolution is not the victory of mechanism and reductionism in chemistry but, rather, the shift to a physicalistic and naturalistic account of chemical properties and vital spirits. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Review of: Stephen Gaukroger: The Collapse of Mechanism and the Rise of Sensibility: Science and the Shaping of Modernity, 1680-1760. Oxford: Clarendon, 2010, pp. ix+505. £47.00 (hb). ISBN 9780199594931. This volume is the second of a projected six-volume work on the shaping of modern cognitive values through the emergence of a scientific culture, a phenomenon that Gaukroger takes to be specific to the West. The volume ranges from Newton’s initial publications on optics to the French Enlightenment and the publication (...) of the <i>Encyclopédie</i> of Diderot and d’Alembert. During this period, the unity within natural philosophy, secured by the view that matter theory should underlie all natural philosophy, is challenged, as is the unity between natural philosophy and physico-theology, the latter unity being the primary source of the cultural legitimacy that had allowed natural philosophy to flourish. The first type of unity was sundered as Newtonian natural philosophy disavowed the requirement that mechanics be united with a microscopic corpuscularian basis. Further, during this period, scientific (or natural philosophical) values first came to dominate the cognitive values of an entire culture, largely through the <i>persona</i> of the <i>philosophe</i> as the embodiment of reason, albeit a sensibilized reason arising from the new non-mechanistic natural philosophy of the mid-eighteenth century and no longer tied to physico-theology. The book does a better job charting the trend toward disunity than it does charting the rise of sensibility. (shrink)
We argue that Löb's Theorem implies a limitation on mechanism. Specifically, we argue, via an application of a generalized version of Löb's Theorem, that any particular device known by an observer to be mechanical cannot be used as an epistemic authority (of a particular type) by that observer: either the belief-set of such an authority is not mechanizable or, if it is, there is no identifiable formal system of which the observer can know (or truly believe) it to be (...) the theorem-set. This gives, we believe, an important and hitherto unnoticed connection between mechanism and the use of authorities by human-like epistemic agents. (shrink)
Can we properly define and explain the human mind an aesthetic mind? The purpose of the paper is to answer this and the related questions that it implies. How do we understand the conceptual field of the aesthetic? What do we mean when we speak about an aesthetic experience or when we express an aesthetic judgement? The first move consists in shaping the outlines of the «aesthetic» as a cluster-concept. Having identified the conceptual core of aesthetic as an expressive synthesis (...) between the emotional and cognitive layers of the experience, I try to develop a theoretical paradigm consistent with it and, consequentially, a mental mechanism of the aesthetic. The next step consists, therefore, in replacing the causal monism involved in the adaptationist paradigm by a plurality of factors. Consequently, I claim that at the origin of the aesthetic mechanism there are four factors. These factors are: 1) the mimetic assimilation of the real; 2) the "seeking" or the pleasure of exploration; 3) the pleasure of exercising preferences as a degree of freedom and an advantage in the conduct of life; 4) the impulse to play. All these factors are dispositions rooted in the system of primary emotions and represent the preconditions for the epigenetic emergence of the aesthetic mechanism. Conclusively, this mechanism is considered a dynamic activity of the brain that integrates into a single space of mutual resonance and harmonization neocortical and subcortical neural circuits: aspects of mental life emotionally attuned and aspects that are specific of cognitive processing of information. (shrink)
In “Minds, Machines, and Gödel”, J. R. Lucas claims that Goedel's incompleteness theorem constitutes a proof “that Mechanism is false, that is, that minds cannot be explained as machines”. He claims further that “if the proof of the falsity of mechanism is valid, it is of the greatest consequence for the whole of philosophy”. It seems to me that both of these claims are exaggerated. It is true that no minds can be explained as machines. But it is (...) not true that Goedel's theorem proves this. At most, Goedel's theorem proves that not all minds can be explained as machines. Since this is so, Goedel's theorem cannot be expected to throw much light on why minds are different from machines. Lucas overestimates the importance of Goedel's theorem for the topic of mechanism, I believe, because he presumes falsely that being unable to follow any but mechanical procedures in mathematics makes something a machine. (shrink)
Primary and methyl aliphatic halides and tosylates undergo substitution reactions with nucleophiles in one step by the classic S N 2 mechanism, which is characterized by second-order kinetics and inversion of configuration at the reaction center. Tertiary aliphatic halides and tosylates undergo substitution reactions with nucleophiles in two (or more) steps by the classic S N 1 mechanism, which is characterized by first-order kinetics and incomplete inversion of configuration at the reaction center due to the presence of ion (...) pairs. When the nucleophile is also the solvent, the substitution reaction is called a solvolysis, and both the S N 2 and S N 1 reactions now obey first-order kinetics. Schleyer and Bentley have provided solid, but not conclusive, evidence that secondary substrates undergo solvolysis by a merged mechanism, one that blends characteristics of both the S N 2 and S N 1 mechanisms. The following paper presents the history of their sustained pursuit of a merged mechanism and subsequent rebuttals to this claim. Several issues related to the philosophy and sociology of science are also discussed. (shrink)
Much contemporary debate on the nature of mechanisms centers on the issue of modulating negative causes. One type of negative causability, which I refer to as "causation by absence," appears difficult to incorporate into modern accounts of mechanistic explanation. This paper argues that a recent attempt to resolve this problem, proposed by Benjamin Barros, requires improvement as it overlooks the fact that not all absences qualify as sources of mechanism failure. I suggest that there are a number of additional (...) types of effects caused by absences that need to be incorporated to account for the diversity of causal connections in the biological sciences. Furthermore, it is argued that recognizing natural variability in mechanisms, such as attenuation, leads to some interesting line-drawing issues for contemporary philosophy of mechanisms. (shrink)
The critique of mechanism in the political philosophy of Herder and German romanticism -- The political function of machine metaphors in Hegel's early writings -- Mechanism in religious practice -- The mechanization of labor and the birth of modern ethicality in Hegel's Jena political writings -- Mechanism and the problem of self-determination in Hegel's logic -- The modern state as absolute mechanism : Hegel's logical insight into the relation of civil society and the state.
What is the relationship between pain and the body? I claim that pain is best explained as a type of personal experience and the bodily response during pain is best explained in terms of a type of mechanical neurophysiologic operation. I apply the radical philosophy of identity theory from philosophy of mind to the relationship between the personal experience of pain and specific neurophysiologic mechanism and argue that the relationship between them is best explained as one of type identity. (...) Specifically, pain is a specific type of personal experience identical to a specific type of allostatic stress response comprised of interdependent nervous, endocrine and immune mechanical operations. (shrink)
Explanations in the life sciences frequently involve presenting a model of the mechanism taken to be responsible for a given phenomenon. Such explanations depart in numerous ways from nomological explanations commonly presented in philosophy of science. This paper focuses on three sorts of differences. First, scientists who develop mechanistic explanations are not limited to linguistic representations and logical inference; they frequently employ dia- grams to characterize mechanisms and simulations to reason about them. Thus, the epistemic resources for presenting mechanistic (...) explanations are considerably richer than those suggested by a nomological framework. Second, the fact that mechanisms involve organized systems of component parts and operations provides direction to both the discovery and testing of mech- anistic explanations. Finally, models of mechanisms are developed for specific exemplars and are not represented in terms of universally quantified statements. Generalization involves investigating both the similarity of new exemplars to those already studied and the variations between them. Ó 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. (shrink)
Can the phenomenal character of perceptual experience be altered by the states of one's cognitive system, for example, one's thoughts or beliefs? If one thinks that this can happen then one thinks that there can be cognitive penetration of perceptual experience; otherwise, one thinks that perceptual experience is cognitively impenetrable. I claim that there is one alleged case of cognitive penetration that cannot be explained away by the standard strategies one can typically use to explain away alleged cases. The case (...) is one in which it seems subjects' beliefs about the typical colour of objects affects their colour experience. I propose a two-step mechanism of indirect cognitive penetration that explains how cognitive penetration may occur. I show that there is independent evidence that each step in this process can occur. I suspect that people who are opposed to the idea that perceptual experience is cognitively penetrable will be less opposed to the idea when they come to consider this indirect mechanism and that those who are generally sympathetic to the idea of cognitive penetrability will welcome the elucidation of this plausible mechanism. (shrink)
Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the primary architect of the neuron doctrine and the law of dynamic polarization, is considered to be the founder of modern neuroscience. At the same time, many philosophers, historians, and neuroscientists agree that modern neuroscience embodies a mechanistic perspective on the explanation of the nervous system. In this paper, I review the extant mechanistic interpretation of Cajal’s contribution to modern neuroscience. Then, I argue that the extant mechanistic interpretation fails to capture the explanatory import of Cajal’s (...) law of dynamic polarization. My claim is that the definitive formulation of Cajal’s law of dynamic polarization, despite its mechanistic inaccuracies, embodies a non-mechanistic pattern of reasoning that is an integral component of modern neuroscience. (shrink)
J. R. Lucas argues in “Minds, Machines, and Gödel”, that his potential output of truths of arithmetic cannot be duplicated by any Turing machine, and a fortiori cannot be duplicated by any machine. Given any Turing machine that generates a sequence of truths of arithmetic, Lucas can produce as true some sentence of arithmetic that the machine will never generate. Therefore Lucas is no machine.
ABSTRACT: Hobbes belonged to philosophical and scientific circles grappling with the big question at the dawn of modern physics: materialism and its consequences for morality. ‘Matter in motion’ may be a core principle of this materialism but it is certainly inadequate to capture the whole project. In wave after wave of this debate the Epicurean view of a fully determined universe governed by natural laws, that nevertheless allows to humans a sphere of libertas, but does not require a creator god (...) or teleology to explain it, comes up against monotheism and its insistence on the incoherence of an ordered world in the absence of a God and his purposes. The following questions were central to this debate: Can we understand the universe as law-governed in the absence of a god? If so, what room is there in a fully determined mechanical universe for human freedom? If humans do enjoy freedom, does the same hold for other animals? Is this freedom compatible with standard views of morality? (shrink)
J. R. Lucas argues in “Minds, Machines, and Gödel”, that his potential output of truths of arithmetic cannot be duplicated by any Turing machine, and a fortiori cannot be duplicated by any machine. Given any Turing machine that generates a sequence of truths of arithmetic, Lucas can produce as true some sentence of arithmetic that the machine will never generate. Therefore Lucas is no machine.
The free-energy principle claims that biological systems behave adaptively maintaining their physical integrity only if they minimize the free energy of their sensory states. Originally proposed to account for perception, learning, and action, the free-energy principle has been applied to the evolution, development, morphology, and function of the brain, and has been called a “postulate,” a “mandatory principle,” and an “imperative.” While it might afford a theoretical foundation for understanding the complex relationship between physical environment, life, and mind, its epistemic (...) status and scope are unclear. Also unclear is how the free-energy principle relates to prominent theoretical approaches to life science phenomena, such as organicism and mechanicism. This paper clarifies both issues, and identifies limits and prospects for the free-energy principle as a first principle in the life sciences. (shrink)
This paper is devoted to a comparison between Ernst Mach's and Friedrich Nietzsche's anti-metaphysical approach to scientific and philosophical concepts. By making reference to Mach’s early essay on the conservation of energy (Die Geschichte und die Wurzel des Satzes von der Erhaltung der Arbeit, 1872), I argue that Nietzsche shares with him the idea that the concepts we adopt are only useful fictions developed during the history of humankind and its culture. This idea is fundamental for the development of modern (...) science, since Mach’s epistemology contributed to give up the mechanistic (Newtonian) view of physics. (shrink)