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William Bechtel [158]William P. Bechtel [39]
  1. Discovering Complexity Decomposition and Localization as Strategies in Scientific Research.William Bechtel & Robert C. Richardson - 1993 - Princeton.
  2. Explanation: A Mechanist Alternative.William Bechtel - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biol and Biomed Sci 36 (2):421--441.
    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 (...)
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    Explanation: A Mechanist Alternative.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (2):421-441.
    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 diagrams to characterize mechanisms and simulations to reason about them. Thus, the epistemic resources for presenting mechanistic explanations are (...)
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  4. Mental Mechanisms: Philosophical Perspectives on Cognitive Neuroscience.William Bechtel - 2007 - Psychology Press.
    A variety of scientific disciplines have set as their task explaining mental activities, recognizing that in some way these activities depend upon our brain. But, until recently, the opportunities to conduct experiments directly on our brains were limited. As a result, research efforts were split between disciplines such as cognitive psychology, linguistics, and artificial intelligence that investigated behavior, while disciplines such as neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and genetics experimented on the brains of non-human animals. In recent decades these disciplines integrated, and with (...)
     
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  5. Abstraction and the Organization of Mechanisms.Arnon Levy & William Bechtel - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (2):241-261.
  6. Top-Down Causation Without Top-Down Causes.Carl F. Craver & William Bechtel - 2007 - Biology and Philosophy 22 (4):547-563.
    We argue that intelligible appeals to interlevel causes (top-down and bottom-up) can be understood, without remainder, as appeals to mechanistically mediated effects. Mechanistically mediated effects are hybrids of causal and constitutive relations, where the causal relations are exclusively intralevel. The idea of causation would have to stretch to the breaking point to accommodate interlevel causes. The notion of a mechanistically mediated effect is preferable because it can do all of the required work without appealing to mysterious interlevel causes. When interlevel (...)
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  7. Discovering Cell Mechanisms: The Creation of Modern Cell Biology.William Bechtel - 2007 - Journal of the History of Biology 40 (1):185-187.
    Between 1940 and 1970 pioneers in the new field of cell biology discovered the operative parts of cells and their contributions to cell life. They offered mechanistic accounts that explained cellular phenomena by identifying the relevant parts of cells, the biochemical operations they performed, and the way in which these parts and operations were organised to accomplish important functions. Cell biology was a revolutionary science but in this book it also provides fuel for yet another revolution, one that focuses on (...)
     
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  8. Mechanism and Biological Explanation.William Bechtel - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (4):533-557.
  9. Multiple Realizability Revisited: Linking Cognitive and Neural States.William Bechtel - 1999 - Philosophy of Science 66 (2):175-207.
    The claim of the multiple realizability of mental states by brain states has been a major feature of the dominant philosophy of mind of the late 20th century. The claim is usually motivated by evidence that mental states are multiply realized, both within humans and between humans and other species. We challenge this contention by focusing on how neuroscientists differentiate brain areas. The fact that they rely centrally on psychological measures in mapping the brain and do so in a comparative (...)
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  10. Dynamic Mechanistic Explanation: Computational Modeling of Circadian Rhythms as an Exemplar for Cognitive Science.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - 2010 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (3):321-333.
    Two widely accepted assumptions within cognitive science are that (1) the goal is to understand the mechanisms responsible for cognitive performances and (2) computational modeling is a major tool for understanding these mechanisms. The particular approaches to computational modeling adopted in cognitive science, moreover, have significantly affected the way in which cognitive mechanisms are understood. Unable to employ some of the more common methods for conducting research on mechanisms, cognitive scientists’ guiding ideas about mechanism have developed in conjunction with their (...)
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  11. Philosophy of Mind: An Overview for Cognitive Science.William P. Bechtel - 1988 - Lawrence Erlbaum.
    Specifically designed to make the philosophy of mind intelligible to those not trained in philosophy, this book provides a concise overview for students and researchers in the cognitive sciences. Emphasizing the relevance of philosophical work to investigations in other cognitive sciences, this unique text examines such issues as the meaning of language, the mind-body problem, the functionalist theories of cognition, and intentionality. As he explores the philosophical issues, Bechtel draws connections between philosophical views and theoretical and experimental work in such (...)
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  12. Discovering Cell Mechanisms: The Creation of Modern Cell Biology.William Bechtel - 2005 - Cambridge University Press.
    Between 1940 and 1970 pioneers in the new field of cell biology discovered the operative parts of cells and their contributions to cell life. They offered mechanistic accounts that explained cellular phenomena by identifying the relevant parts of cells, the biochemical operations they performed, and the way in which these parts and operations were organised to accomplish important functions. Cell biology was a revolutionary science but in this book it also provides fuel for yet another revolution, one that focuses on (...)
     
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  13. Mental Mechanisms: Philosophical Perspectives on the Sciences of Cognition and the Brain.William P. Bechtel - manuscript
    1. The Naturalistic Turn in Philosophy of Science 2. The Framework of Mechanistic Explanation: Parts, Operations, and Organization 3. Representing and Reasoning About Mechanisms 4. Mental Mechanisms: Mechanisms that Process Information 5. Discovering Mental Mechanisms 6 . Summary.
     
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  14. Investigating Neural Representations: The Tale of Place Cells.William Bechtel - 2016 - Synthese 193 (5):1287-1321.
    While neuroscientists often characterize brain activity as representational, many philosophers have construed these accounts as just theorists’ glosses on the mechanism. Moreover, philosophical discussions commonly focus on finished accounts of explanation, not research in progress. I adopt a different perspective, considering how characterizations of neural activity as representational contributes to the development of mechanistic accounts, guiding the investigations neuroscientists pursue as they work from an initial proposal to a more detailed understanding of a mechanism. I develop one illustrative example involving (...)
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  15. Dynamical Models: An Alternative or Complement to Mechanistic Explanations?David M. Kaplan & William Bechtel - 2011 - Topics in Cognitive Science 3 (2):438-444.
    Abstract While agreeing that dynamical models play a major role in cognitive science, we reject Stepp, Chemero, and Turvey's contention that they constitute an alternative to mechanistic explanations. We review several problems dynamical models face as putative explanations when they are not grounded in mechanisms. Further, we argue that the opposition of dynamical models and mechanisms is a false one and that those dynamical models that characterize the operations of mechanisms overcome these problems. By briefly considering examples involving the generation (...)
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  16. Being Emergence Vs. Pattern Emergence: Complexity, Control, and Goal-Directedness in Biological Systems.Jason Winning & William Bechtel - 2019 - In Sophie Gibb, Robin Hendry & Tom Lancaster (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Emergence. London: pp. 134-144.
    Emergence is much discussed by both philosophers and scientists. But, as noted by Mitchell (2012), there is a significant gulf; philosophers and scientists talk past each other. We contend that this is because philosophers and scientists typically mean different things by emergence, leading us to distinguish being emergence and pattern emergence. While related to distinctions offered by others between, for example, strong/weak emergence or epistemic/ontological emergence (Clayton, 2004, pp. 9–11), we argue that the being vs. pattern distinction better captures what (...)
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  17. Discovering Complexity.William Bechtel, Robert C. Richardson & Scott A. Kleiner - 1996 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 18 (3):363-382.
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  18.  37
    Can Mechanistic Explanation Be Reconciled with Scale-Free Constitution and Dynamics?William Bechtel - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 53:84-93.
  19. Connectionism and the Mind.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - 1991 - Wiley-Blackwell.
  20. Looking Down, Around, and Up: Mechanistic Explanation in Psychology.William Bechtel - 2009 - Philosophical Psychology 22 (5):543-564.
    Accounts of mechanistic explanation have emphasized the importance of looking down—decomposing a mechanism into its parts and operations. Using research on visual processing as an exemplar, I illustrate how productive such research has been. But once multiple components of a mechanism have been identified, researchers also need to figure out how it is organized—they must look around and determine how to recompose the mechanism. Although researchers often begin by trying to recompose the mechanism in terms of sequential operations, they frequently (...)
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  21.  18
    Connectionism and the Mind: An Introduction to Parallel Processing in Networks.David Pickles, William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamson - 1992 - Philosophical Quarterly 42 (166):101.
  22. Thinking Dynamically About Biological Mechanisms: Networks of Coupled Oscillators. [REVIEW]William Bechtel & Adele A. Abrahamsen - 2013 - Foundations of Science 18 (4):707-723.
    Explaining the complex dynamics exhibited in many biological mechanisms requires extending the recent philosophical treatment of mechanisms that emphasizes sequences of operations. To understand how nonsequentially organized mechanisms will behave, scientists often advance what we call dynamic mechanistic explanations. These begin with a decomposition of the mechanism into component parts and operations, using a variety of laboratory-based strategies. Crucially, the mechanism is then recomposed by means of computational models in which variables or terms in differential equations correspond to properties of (...)
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  23. The Non-­‐Redundant Contributions of Marr’s Three Levels of Analysis for Explaining Information Processing Mechanisms.William Bechtel & Oron Shagrir - 2015 - Topics in Cognitive Science 7 (2):312-322.
    Are all three of Marr's levels needed? Should they be kept distinct? We argue for the distinct contributions and methodologies of each level of analysis. It is important to maintain them because they provide three different perspectives required to understand mechanisms, especially information-processing mechanisms. The computational perspective provides an understanding of how a mechanism functions in broader environments that determines the computations it needs to perform. The representation and algorithmic perspective offers an understanding of how information about the environment is (...)
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  24.  53
    Rethinking Causality in Biological and Neural Mechanisms: Constraints and Control.Jason Winning & William Bechtel - 2018 - Minds and Machines 28 (2).
    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 (...)
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  25. Mechanisms and Psychological Explanation.Cory Wright & William Bechtel - 2007 - In Paul Thagard (ed.), Philosophy of Psychology and Cognitive Science. Elsevier.
    As much as assumptions about mechanisms and mechanistic explanation have deeply affected psychology, they have received disproportionately little analysis in philosophy. After a historical survey of the influences of mechanistic approaches to explanation of psychological phenomena, we specify the nature of mechanisms and mechanistic explanation. Contrary to some treatments of mechanistic explanation, we maintain that explanation is an epistemic activity that involves representing and reasoning about mechanisms. We discuss the manner in which mechanistic approaches serve to bridge levels rather than (...)
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  26. Representations and Cognitive Explanations: Assessing the Dynamicist Challenge in Cognitive Science.William Bechtel - 1998 - Cognitive Science 22 (3):295-317.
    Advocates of dynamical systems theory (DST) sometimes employ revolutionary rhetoric. In an attempt to clarify how DST models differ from others in cognitive science, I focus on two issues raised by DST: the role for representations in mental models and the conception of explanation invoked. Two features of representations are their role in standing-in for features external to the system and their format. DST advocates sometimes claim to have repudiated the need for stand-ins in DST models, but I argue that (...)
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  27. What is Psychological Explanation?William Bechtel & Cory Wright - 2009 - In P. Calvo & J. Symons (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Psychology. Routledge. pp. 113--130.
    Due to the wide array of phenomena that are of interest to them, psychologists offer highly diverse and heterogeneous types of explanations. Initially, this suggests that the question "What is psychological explanation?" has no single answer. To provide appreciation of this diversity, we begin by noting some of the more common types of explanations that psychologists provide, with particular focus on classical examples of explanations advanced in three different areas of psychology: psychophysics, physiological psychology, and information-processing psychology. To analyze what (...)
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  28. Complex Biological Mechanisms: Cyclic, Oscillatory, and Autonomous.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - unknown
    The mechanistic perspective has dominated biological disciplines such as biochemistry, physiology, cell and molecular biology, and neuroscience, especially during the 20th century. The primary strategy is reductionist: organisms are to be decomposed into component parts and operations at multiple levels. Researchers adopting this perspective have generated an enormous body of information about the mechanisms of life at scales ranging from the whole organism down to genetic and other molecular operations.
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  29. Levels of Description and Explanation in Cognitive Science.William Bechtel - 1994 - Minds and Machines 4 (1):1-25.
    The notion of levels has been widely used in discussions of cognitive science, especially in discussions of the relation of connectionism to symbolic modeling of cognition. I argue that many of the notions of levels employed are problematic for this purpose, and develop an alternative notion grounded in the framework of mechanistic explanation. By considering the source of the analogies underlying both symbolic modeling and connectionist modeling, I argue that neither is likely to provide an adequate analysis of processes at (...)
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  30.  53
    Design Sans Adaptation.Sara Green, Arnon Levy & William Bechtel - 2015 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 5 (1):15-29.
    Design thinking in general, and optimality modeling in particular, have traditionally been associated with adaptationism—a research agenda that gives pride of place to natural selection in shaping biological characters. Our goal is to evaluate the role of design thinking in non-evolutionary analyses. Specifically, we focus on research into abstract design principles that underpin the functional organization of extant organisms. Drawing on case studies from engineering-inspired approaches in biology we show how optimality analysis, and other design-related methods, play a specific methodological (...)
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  31. Connectionism and the Mind: Parallel Processing, Dynamics, and Evolution in Networks.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - 2002 - Wiley-Blackwell.
  32.  65
    Why Do Biologists Use so Many Diagrams?Benjamin Sheredos, Daniel Burnston, Adele Abrahamsen & William Bechtel - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (5):931-944.
    Diagrams have distinctive characteristics that make them an effective medium for communicating research findings, but they are even more impressive as tools for scientific reasoning. Focusing on circadian rhythm research in biology to explore these roles, we examine diagrammatic formats that have been devised to identify and illuminate circadian phenomena and to develop and modify mechanistic explanations of these phenomena.
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  33. Reducing Psychology While Maintaining its Autonomy Via Mechanistic Explanations.William Bechtel - 2007 - In M. Schouten & H. L. De Joong (eds.), The Matter of the Mind: Philosophical Essays on Psychology, Neuroscience and Reduction. Blackwell.
    Arguments for the autonomy of psychology or other higher-level sciences have often taken the form of denying the possibility of reduction. The form of reduction most proponents and critics of the autonomy of psychology have in mind is theory reduction. Mechanistic explanations provide a different perspective. Mechanistic explanations are reductionist insofar as they appeal to lower-level entities—the component parts of a mechanism and their operations— to explain a phenomenon. However, unlike theory reductions, mechanistic explanations also recognize the fundamental role of (...)
     
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  34. Generalization and Discovery by Assuming Conserved Mechanisms: Cross‐Species Research on Circadian Oscillators.William Bechtel - 2009 - Philosophy of Science 76 (5):762-773.
    In many domains of biology, explanation takes the form of characterizing the mechanism responsible for a particular phenomenon in a specific biological system. How are such explanations generalized? One important strategy assumes conservation of mechanisms through evolutionary descent. But conservation is seldom complete. In the case discussed, the central mechanism for circadian rhythms in animals was first identified in Drosophila and then extended to mammals. Scientists' working assumption that the clock mechanisms would be conserved both yielded important generalizations and served (...)
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  35. Philosophy and the Neurosciences: A Reader.William P. Bechtel, Pete Mandik, Jennifer Mundale & Robert S. Stufflebeam (eds.) - 2001 - Blackwell.
    2. Daugman, J. G. Brain metaphor and brain theory 3. Mundale, J. Neuroanatomical Foundations of Cognition: Connecting the Neuronal Level with the Study of Higher Brain Areas.
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  36. In Search of Mitochondrial Mechanisms: Interfield Excursions Between Cell Biology and Biochemistry.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - 2007 - Journal of the History of Biology 40 (1):1-33.
    Developing models of biological mechanisms, such as those involved in respiration in cells, often requires collaborative effort drawing upon techniques developed and information generated in different disciplines. Biochemists in the early decades of the 20th century uncovered all but the most elusive chemical operations involved in cellular respiration, but were unable to align the reaction pathways with particular structures in the cell. During the period 1940-1965 cell biology was emerging as a new discipline and made distinctive contributions to understanding the (...)
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  37. The Downs and Ups of Mechanistic Research: Circadian Rhythm Research as an Exemplar. [REVIEW]William Bechtel - 2010 - Erkenntnis 73 (3):313 - 328.
    In the context of mechanistic explanation, reductionistic research pursues a decomposition of complex systems into their component parts and operations. Using research on the mechanisms responsible for circadian rhythms, I consider both the gains that have been made by discovering genes and proteins that figure in these intracellular oscillators and also highlight the increasingly recognized need to understand higher-level integration, both between cells in the central oscillator and between the central and peripheral oscillators. This history illustrates a common need to (...)
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  38. The Challenge of Characterizing Operations in the Mechanisms Underlying Behavior.William P. Bechtel - 2005 - Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior 84:313-325.
    Neuroscience and cognitive science seek to explain behavioral regularities in terms of underlying mechanisms. An important element of a mechanistic explanation is a characterization of the operations of the parts of the mechanism. The challenge in characterizing such operations is illustrated by an example from the history of physiological chemistry in which some investigators tried to characterize the internal operations in the same terms as the overall physiological system while others appealed to elemental chemistry. In order for biochemistry to become (...)
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    Network Analyses in Systems Biology: New Strategies for Dealing with Biological Complexity.Sara Green, Maria Şerban, Raphael Scholl, Nicholaos Jones, Ingo Brigandt & William Bechtel - 2018 - Synthese 195 (4):1751-1777.
    The increasing application of network models to interpret biological systems raises a number of important methodological and epistemological questions. What novel insights can network analysis provide in biology? Are network approaches an extension of or in conflict with mechanistic research strategies? When and how can network and mechanistic approaches interact in productive ways? In this paper we address these questions by focusing on how biological networks are represented and analyzed in a diverse class of case studies. Our examples span from (...)
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  40. Decomposing, Recomposing, and Situating Circadian Mechanisms: Three Tasks in Developing Mechanistic Explanations.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - 2009 - In H. Leitgeb & A. Hieke (eds.), Reduction: Between the Mind and the Brain. Ontos. pp. 12--177.
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    Understanding Endogenously Active Mechanisms: A Scientific and Philosophical Challenge. [REVIEW]William Bechtel - 2012 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (2):233-248.
    Abstract Although noting the importance of organization in mechanisms, the new mechanistic philosophers of science have followed most biologists in focusing primarily on only the simplest mode of organization in which operations are envisaged as occurring sequentially. Increasingly, though, biologists are recognizing that the mechanisms they confront are non-sequential and the operations nonlinear. To understand how such mechanisms function through time, they are turning to computational models and tools of dynamical systems theory. Recent research on circadian rhythms addressing both intracellular (...)
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  42. Mechanism.Carl Craver & William Bechtel - 2006 - In J. Pfeifer & Sahotra Sarkar (eds.), The Philosophy of Science: An Encyclopedia. Psychology Press. pp. 469--478.
     
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  43. Mechanisms in Cognitive Psychology: What Are the Operations?William Bechtel - 2008 - Philosophy of Science 75 (5):983-994.
    Cognitive psychologists, like biologists, frequently describe mechanisms when explaining phenomena. Unlike biologists, who can often trace material transformations to identify operations, psychologists face a more daunting task in identifying operations that transform information. Behavior provides little guidance as to the nature of the operations involved. While not itself revealing the operations, identification of brain areas involved in psychological mechanisms can help constrain attempts to characterize the operations. In current memory research, evidence that the same brain areas are involved in what (...)
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  44. Linking Cognition and Brain: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Language.William Bechtel - 2001 - In William P. Bechtel, Pete Mandik, Jennifer Mundale & Robert S. Stufflebeam (eds.), Philosophy and the Neurosciences: A Reader. Blackwell.
  45. Decomposing and Localizing Vision: An Exemplar for Cognitive Neuroscience.William P. Bechtel - 2001 - In William P. Bechtel, Pete Mandik, Jennifer Mundale & Robert S. Stufflebeam (eds.), Philosophy and the Neurosciences: A Reader. Blackwell. pp. 225--249.
  46. Decomposing the Brain: A Long Term Pursuit. [REVIEW]William P. Bechtel - 2002 - Brain and Mind 3 (1):229-242.
    This paper defends cognitive neuroscience’s project of developing mechanistic explan- ations of cognitive processes through decomposition and localization against objections raised by William Uttal in The New Phrenology. The key issue between Uttal and researchers pursuing cognitive neuroscience is that Uttal bets against the possibility of decomposing mental operations into component elementary operations which are localized in distinct brain regions. The paper argues that it is through advancing and revising what are likely to be overly simplistic and incorrect decompositions that (...)
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  47. Constructing a Philosophy of Science of Cognitive Science.William Bechtel - 2009 - Topics in Cognitive Science 1 (3):548-569.
    Philosophy of science is positioned to make distinctive contributions to cognitive science by providing perspective on its conceptual foundations and by advancing normative recommendations. The philosophy of science I embrace is naturalistic in that it is grounded in the study of actual science. Focusing on explanation, I describe the recent development of a mechanistic philosophy of science from which I draw three normative consequences for cognitive science. First, insofar as cognitive mechanisms are information-processing mechanisms, cognitive science needs an account of (...)
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  48. Explanation: Mechanism, Modularity, and Situated Cognition.William Bechtel - 2009 - In Murat Aydede & P. Robbins (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Situated Cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 155--170.
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    Scientists’ Use of Diagrams in Developing Mechanistic Explanations: A Case Study From Chronobiology.Daniel C. Burnston, Benjamin Sheredos, Adele Abrahamsen & William Bechtel - 2014 - Pragmatics and Cognition 22 (2):224-243.
    We explore the crucial role of diagrams in scientific reasoning, especially reasoning directed at developing mechanistic explanations of biological phenomena. We offer a case study focusing on one research project that resulted in a published paper advancing a new understanding of the mechanism by which the central circadian oscillator in Synechococcus elongatus controls gene expression. By examining how the diagrams prepared for the paper developed over the course of multiple drafts, we show how the process of generating a new explanation (...)
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    Diagrams as Tools for Scientific Reasoning.Adele Abrahamsen & William Bechtel - 2015 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 6 (1):117-131.
    We contend that diagrams are tools not only for communication but also for supporting the reasoning of biologists. In the mechanistic research that is characteristic of biology, diagrams delineate the phenomenon to be explained, display explanatory relations, and show the organized parts and operations of the mechanism proposed as responsible for the phenomenon. Both phenomenon diagrams and explanatory relations diagrams, employing graphs or other formats, facilitate applying visual processing to the detection of relevant patterns. Mechanism diagrams guide reasoning about how (...)
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