The concept of mechanism is analyzed in terms of entities and activities, organized such that they are productive of regular changes. Examples show how mechanisms work in neurobiology and molecular biology. Thinking in terms of mechanisms provides a new framework for addressing many traditional philosophical issues: causality, laws, explanation, reduction, and scientific change.
This article deals with mechanisms conceived as composed of entities and activities. In response to many perplexities about the nature of activities, a number of arguments are developed concerning their epistemic and ontological status. Some questions concerning the relations between cause and causal explanation and mechanisms are also addressed.
Few people, if any, still argue that science in all its aspects is a value-free endeavor. At the very least, values affect decisions about the choice of research problems to investigate and the uses to which the results of research are applied. But what about the actual doing of science? -/- As Science, Values, and Objectivity reveals, the connections and interactions between values and science are quite complex. The essays in this volume identify the crucial values that play a role (...) in science, distinguish some of the criteria that can be used for value identification, and elaborate the conditions for warranting certain values as necessary or central to the very activity of scientific research. -/- Recently, social constructivists have taken the presence of values within the scientific model to question the basis of objectivity. However, the contributors to <I>Science, Values, and Objectivity</I> recognize that such acknowledgment of the role of values does not negate the fact that objects exist in the world. Objects have the power to constrain our actions and thoughts, though the norms for these thoughts lie in the public, social world. -/- Values may be decried or defended, praised or blamed, but in a world that strives for a modicum of reason, values, too, must be reasoned. Critical assessment of the values that play a role in scientific research is as much a part of doing good science as interpreting data. (shrink)
Traditionally it has been thought that scientific controversies can always be resolved on the basis of empirical data. Recently, however, social constructionists have claimed that the outcome of scientific debates is strongly influenced by non-evidential factors such as the rhetorical prowess and professional clout of the participants. This volume of previously unpublished essays by well-known philosophers of science presents historical studies and philosophical analyses that undermine the plausibility of an extreme social constructionist perspective while also indicating the need for a (...) richer and more realistic account of scientific rationality. (shrink)
Some biological processes move from step to step in a way that cannot be completely understood solely in terms of causes and correlations. This paper develops a notion of mechanistic information that can be used to explain the continuities of such processes. We compare them to processes that do not involve information. We compare our conception of mechanistic information to some familiar notions including Crick’s idea of genetic information, Shannon-Weaver information, and Millikan’s biosemantic information.
Descartes is always concerned about knowledge. However, the Galileo affair in 1633, the reactions to his Discourse on method, and later his need to reply to objections to his Meditations provoked crises in Descartes’s intellectual development the import of which has not been sufficiently recognized. These events are the major reasons why Descartes’s philosophical position concerning how we know and what we may know is radically different at the end of his life from what it was when he began. We (...) call this later position Descartes’s epistemic stance and contrast it with his earlier methodological, metaphysical realism. Yet Descartes’s epistemic views cannot be separated from other aspects of his work, for example, his views concerning God, causality, metaphysics, and the nature of science. A further meta-implication is that serious errors await any scholar who cites early Cartesian texts in support of late Cartesian positions, or who uses later texts in conjunction with early ones to support a reading of Descartes’s philosophy.Keywords: René Descartes; Nature; Motion; Method; Knowledge. (shrink)
We argue that Isaac Newton really is best understood as being in the tradition of the Mechanical Philosophy and, further, that Newton saw himself as being in this tradition. But the tradition as Newton understands it is not that of Robert Boyle and many others, for whom the Mechanical Philosophy was defined by contact action and a corpuscularean theory of matter. Instead, as we argue in this paper, Newton interpreted and extended the Mechanical Philosophy's slogan “matter and motion” in reference (...) to the long and distinguished tradition of mixed mathematics and the study of simple machines. (shrink)
One of the perennial themes in philosophy is the problem of our access to the world around us; do our perceptual systems bring us into contact with the world as it is or does perception depend upon our individual conceptual frameworks? This volume of new essays examines reference as it relates to perception, action and realism, and the questions which arise if there is no neutral perspective or independent way to know the world. The essays discuss the nature of referring, (...) concentrating on the way perceptual reference links us with the observable world, and go on to examine the implications of theories of perceptual reference for realism and the way in which scientific theories refer and thus connect us with the world. They will be of interest to a wide range of readers in philosophy of science, epistemology, philosophy of psychology, cognitive science and action theory. (shrink)
The contemporary epistemic status of mental health disciplines does not allow the cross validation of mental disorders among various genetic markers, biochemical pathway or mechanisms, and clinical assessments in neuroscience explanations. We attempt to provide a meta-empirical analysis of the contemporary status of the cross-disciplinary issues existing between neuro-biology and psychopathology. Our case studies take as an established medical mode an example cross validation between biological sciences and clinical cardiology in the case of myocardial infarction. This is then contrasted with (...) the incoherence between neuroscience and psychiatry in the case of bipolar disorders. We examine some methodological problems arising from the neuro-imaging studies, specifically the experimental paradigm introduced by the team of Wayne Drevets. Several theoretical objections are raised: temporal discordance, state independence, and queries about the reliability and specificity, and failure of convergent validity of the inter-disciplinary attempt. Both modern neuroscience and clinical psychology taken as separate fields have failed to reveal the explanatory mechanisms underlying mental disorders. The data acquired inside the mono-disciplinary matrices of neurobiology and psychopathology are deeply insufficient concerning their validity, reliability, and utility. Further, there haven’t been developed any effective trans-disciplinary connections between them. It raises the requirement for development of explanatory significant multi-disciplinary “meta-language” in psychiatry (Berrios, 2006, 2008). We attempt to provide a novel conceptual model for an integrative dialogue between psychiatry and neuroscience that actually includes criteria for cross-validation of the common used psychiatric categories and the different assessment methods. The major goal of our proactive program is the foundation of complementary “bridging” connections of neuroscience and psychopathology which may stabilize the cognitive meta-structure of the mental health knowledge. This entails bringing into synergy the disparate discourses of clinical psychology and neuroscience. One possible model accomplishment of this goal would be the synergistic (or at least compatible) integration of the knowledge under trans-disciplinary convergent cross-validation of the commonly used methods and notions. (shrink)
Emerging as a hot topic in the mid-twentieth century, causality is one of the most frequently discussed issues in contemporary philosophy. Causality has been a central concept in philosophy as well as in the sciences, especially the natural sciences, dating back to its beginning in Greek thought. David Hume famously claimed that causality is the cement of the universe. In general terms, it links eventualities, predicts the consequences of action, and is the cognitive basis for the acquisition and the use (...) of categories and concepts in the child. Indeed, how could one answer why-questions, around which early rational thought begins to revolve, without hitting on the relationships between reason and consequence, cause and effect, or without drawing these distinctions? But a comprehensive definition of causality has been notoriously hard to provide, and virtually every aspect of causation has been subject to much debate and analysis. _Thinking about Causes_ brings together top philosophers from the United States and Europe to focus on causality as a major force in philosophical and scientific thought. Topics addressed include: ancient Stoicism and moral philosophy; the case of sacramental causality; traditional causal concepts in Descartes; Kant on transcendental laws; the influence of J. S. Mill's politics on his concept of causation; plurality in causality; causality in modern physics; causality in economics; and the concept of free will. Taken together, the essays in this collection provide the best current thinking about causality, especially as it relates to the philosophy of science. (shrink)
The papers collected here are the result of an INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM: Data · Phenomena · Theories: What’s the notion of a scientific phenomenon good for? held in Heidelberg in September 2008. The event was organized by the research group Causality, Cognition, and the Constitution of Scientific Phenomena in cooperation with Philosophy Department at the University of Heidelberg (Peter McLaughlin and Andreas Kemmerling) and the IWH Heidelberg. The symposium was supported by the Emmy-Noether-Programm der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft and by Stiftung Universitat Heidelebrg (...) . The workshop was held in honor of Daniela Bailer-Jones, who died on 13 November 2006 at the age of 37 (cf. my 2007 Daniela Bailer-Jones ). Bailer-Jones was an Emmy Noether fellow, and the symposium was arranged and run by those who were working in her research group at the time of her death: Monika Dullstein, Jochen Apel, and Pavel Radchencko. To them goes the credit for the conception, planning, and carrying out of the symposium. (shrink)
What are the differences between philosophy and science, or between the methods of philosophy and the methods of science? Unlike some philosophers we do not find philosophy and the methods of philosophy to be sui generis. Science, and in particular neuroscience, has much to tell us about the nature of the world and the concepts that we must use to understand and explain it. Yet science cannot function well without reflective analysis of the concepts, methods, and practices that constitute it. (...) For example, experimental methods and their resulting empirical data are essential for understanding the world, yet such data is not a-conceptual. Understanding how and what theoretical assumptions, conceptual assumptions, and practical knowledge guide the use of experimental methods is relevant to understanding the results of that use. In this way, philosophy – whether done by philosophers or scientists – has a role to play in understanding the world. Neuroscience is typically individualistic in focus; nonetheless, the mechanisms of learning and linguistic ability that some neuroscientists study also have a role to play in understanding communication. Philosophy cannot offer adequate understanding, even conceptual clarity, in isolation from empirical investigation. Yet, this does not require that science or scientific concepts will replace or reduce philosophical concepts, let alone those of ordinary language. (shrink)
Leading scholars in the fields of philosophy and the sciences of the mind have contributed to this newest volume in the prestigious Pittsburgh-Konstanz series. Among the problem areas discussed are folk psychology, meanings as conceptual structures, functional and qualitative properties of colors, the role of conscious mental states, representation and mental content, the impact of connectionism on the philosophy of the mind, and supervenience, emergence, and realization. Most of the essays are followed by commentaries that reflect ongoing debates in the (...) philosophy of the mind and often develop a counterpoint to the claims of the essayists. (shrink)