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New Mechanistic Explanation and the Need for Explanatory Constraints

In Ken Aizawa & Carl Gillett (eds.), Scientific Composition and Metaphysical Ground. Palgrave. pp. 41-74 (2016)

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  1. Grounding-Mechanical Explanation.Kelly Trogdon - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (6):1289-1309.
    Characterization of a form of explanation involving grounding on the model of mechanistic causal explanation.
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  • Relating Traditional and Academic Ecological Knowledge: Mechanistic and Holistic Epistemologies Across Cultures.David Ludwig & Luana Poliseli - 2018 - Biology and Philosophy 33 (5-6):43.
    Current debates about the integration of traditional and academic ecological knowledge struggle with a dilemma of division and assimilation. On the one hand, the emphasis on differences between traditional and academic perspectives has been criticized as creating an artificial divide that brands TEK as “non-scientific” and contributes to its marginalization. On the other hand, there has been increased concern about inadequate assimilation of Indigenous and other traditional perspectives into scientific practices that disregards the holistic nature and values of TEK. The (...)
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  • Diachronic Causal Constitutive Relations.Bert Leuridan & Thomas Lodewyckx - 2020 - Synthese (9):1-31.
    Mechanistic approaches are very common in the causal interpretation of biological and neuroscientific experimental work in today’s philosophy of science. In the mechanistic literature a strict distinction is often made between causal relations and constitutive relations, where the latter cannot be causal. One of the typical reasons for this strict distinction is that constitutive relations are supposedly synchronic whereas most if not all causal relations are diachronic. This strict distinction gives rise to a number of problems, however. Our end goal (...)
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  • Race and Medicine in Light of the New Mechanistic Philosophy of Science.Kalewold Hailu Kalewold - 2020 - Biology and Philosophy 35 (4):1-22.
    Racial disparities in health outcomes have recently become a flashpoint in the debate about the value of race as a biological concept. What role, if any, race has in the etiology of disease is a philosophically and scientifically contested topic. In this article, I expand on the insights of the new mechanistic philosophy of science to defend a mechanism discovery approach to investigating epidemiological racial disparities. The mechanism discovery approach has explanatory virtues lacking in the populational approach typically employed in (...)
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  • Manipulation is Key: On Why Non-Mechanistic Explanations in the Cognitive Sciences Also Describe Relations of Manipulation and Control.Lotem Elber-Dorozko - 2018 - Synthese 195 (12):5319-5337.
    A popular view presents explanations in the cognitive sciences as causal or mechanistic and argues that an important feature of such explanations is that they allow us to manipulate and control the explanandum phenomena. Nonetheless, whether there can be explanations in the cognitive sciences that are neither causal nor mechanistic is still under debate. Another prominent view suggests that both causal and non-causal relations of counterfactual dependence can be explanatory, but this view is open to the criticism that it is (...)
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  • Explanatory hierarchy of causal structures in molecular biology.Zdenka Brzović, Vito Balorda & Predrag Šustar - 2021 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (2):1-21.
    In the debate on causal explanation in biology, in the past two decades largely influenced by the new mechanist approach, the concept of a pathway has recently reemerged as a promising research agenda, 551-572, 2018; The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 72, 131-158, 2021). Ross’ account of biological explanation differentiates several autonomous types of causal structures that play explanatory and other roles across the life sciences. NM, however, prioritizes mechanisms as vehicles of biological explanations. According to this program, (...)
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  • Molecular Pathways and the Contextual Explanation of Molecular Functions.Giovanni Boniolo & Raffaella Campaner - 2018 - Biology and Philosophy 33 (3-4):24.
    Much of the recent philosophical debate on causation and causal explanation in the biological and biomedical sciences has focused on the notion of mechanism. Mechanisms, their nature and epistemic roles have been tackled by a range of so-called neo-mechanistic theories, and widely discussed. Without denying the merits of this approach, our paper aims to show how lately it has failed to give proper credit to processes, which are central to the field, especially of contemporary molecular biology. Processes can be summed (...)
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  • Horizontal Surgicality and Mechanistic Constitution.Michael Baumgartner, Lorenzo Casini & Beate Krickel - 2018 - Erkenntnis:1-14.
    While ideal interventions are acknowledged by many as valuable tools for the analysis of causation, recent discussions have shown that, since there are no ideal interventions on upper-level phenomena that non-reductively supervene on their underlying mechanisms, interventions cannot—contrary to a popular opinion—ground an informative analysis of constitution. This has led some to abandon the project of analyzing constitution in interventionist terms. By contrast, this paper defines the notion of a horizontally surgical intervention, and argues that, when combined with some innocuous (...)
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  • Mental Kinematics: Dynamics and Mechanics of Neurocognitive Systems.David L. Barack - 2020 - Synthese 199 (1-2):1091-1123.
    Dynamical systems play a central role in explanations in cognitive neuroscience. The grounds for these explanations are hotly debated and generally fall under two approaches: non-mechanistic and mechanistic. In this paper, I first outline a neurodynamical explanatory schema that highlights the role of dynamical systems in cognitive phenomena. I next explore the mechanistic status of such neurodynamical explanations. I argue that these explanations satisfy only some of the constraints on mechanistic explanation and should be considered pseudomechanistic explanations. I defend this (...)
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  • Mechanisms Without Mechanistic Explanation.Naftali Weinberger - 2017 - Synthese:1-18.
    Some recent accounts of constitutive relevance have identified mechanism components with entities that are causal intermediaries between the input and output of a mechanism. I argue that on such accounts there is no distinctive inter-level form of mechanistic explanation and that this highlights an absence in the literature of a compelling argument that there are such explanations. Nevertheless, the entities that these accounts call ‘components’ do play an explanatory role. Studying causal intermediaries linking variables Xand Y provides knowledge of the (...)
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  • Mechanisms Without Mechanistic Explanation.Naftali Weinberger - 2019 - Synthese 196 (6):2323-2340.
    Some recent accounts of constitutive relevance have identified mechanism components with entities that are causal intermediaries between the input and output of a mechanism. I argue that on such accounts there is no distinctive inter-level form of mechanistic explanation and that this highlights an absence in the literature of a compelling argument that there are such explanations. Nevertheless, the entities that these accounts call ‘components’ do play an explanatory role. Studying causal intermediaries linking variables Xand Y provides knowledge of the (...)
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  • The Causal Economy Approach to Scientific Explanation.Laura Franklin-Hall - forthcoming - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science.
    This paper sketches a causal account of scientific explanation designed to sustain the judgment that high-level, detail-sparse explanations—particularly those offered in biology—can be at least as explanatorily valuable as lower-level counterparts. The motivating idea is that complete explanations maximize causal economy: they cite those aspects of an event’s causal run-up that offer the biggest-bang-for-your-buck, by costing less (in virtue of being abstract) and delivering more (in virtue making the event stable or robust).
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  • Principled Mechanistic Explanations in Biology: A Case Study of Alzheimer's Disease.Sepehr Ehsani - manuscript
    Following an analysis of the state of investigations and clinical outcomes in the Alzheimer's research field, I argue that the widely-accepted 'amyloid cascade' mechanistic explanation of Alzheimer's disease appears to be fundamentally incomplete. In this context, I propose that a framework termed 'principled mechanism' (PM) can help with remedying this problem. First, using a series of five 'tests', PM systematically compares different components of a given mechanistic explanation against a paradigmatic set of criteria, and hints at various ways of making (...)
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  • Recent Work in The Philosophy of Biology.Christopher J. Austin - 2017 - Analysis 77 (2):anx032.
    The biological sciences have always proven a fertile ground for philosophical analysis, one from which has grown a rich tradition stemming from Aristotle and flowering with Darwin. And although contemporary philosophy is increasingly becoming conceptually entwined with the study of the empirical sciences with the data of the latter now being regularly utilised in the establishment and defence of the frameworks of the former, a practice especially prominent in the philosophy of physics, the development of that tradition hasn’t received the (...)
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