Princeton (1993)

Authors
Robert Richardson
University of Cincinnati
William Bechtel
University of California, San Diego
Abstract
An analysis of two heuristic strategies for the development of mechanistic models, illustrated with historical examples from the life sciences. In Discovering Complexity, William Bechtel and Robert Richardson examine two heuristics that guided the development of mechanistic models in the life sciences: decomposition and localization. Drawing on historical cases from disciplines including cell biology, cognitive neuroscience, and genetics, they identify a number of "choice points" that life scientists confront in developing mechanistic explanations and show how different choices result in divergent explanatory models. Describing decomposition as the attempt to differentiate functional and structural components of a system and localization as the assignment of responsibility for specific functions to specific structures, Bechtel and Richardson examine the usefulness of these heuristics as well as their fallibility--the sometimes false assumption underlying them that nature is significantly decomposable and hierarchically organized. When Discovering Complexity was originally published in 1993, few philosophers of science perceived the centrality of seeking mechanisms to explain phenomena in biology, relying instead on the model of nomological explanation advanced by the logical positivists (a model Bechtel and Richardson found to be utterly inapplicable to the examples from the life sciences in their study). Since then, mechanism and mechanistic explanation have become widely discussed. In a substantive new introduction to this MIT Press edition of their book, Bechtel and Richardson examine both philosophical and scientific developments in research on mechanistic models since 1993.
Keywords Research   Decomposition method   Localization theory   Complexity
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Reprint years 2010
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ISBN(s) 0262514737   0691087628   0691087628   9780262514736
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Citations of this work BETA

The New Mechanical Philosophy.Stuart Glennan - 2017 - Oxford University Press.
Explanation: A Mechanist Alternative.William Bechtel - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biol and Biomed Sci 36 (2):421--441.
Explaining Imagination.Peter Langland-Hassan - 2020 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rethinking Mechanistic Explanation.Stuart Glennan - 2002 - Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002 (3):S342-353.

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