Mechanism and explanation

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 27 (4):410-465 (1997)
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Abstract

The aim of this article is to elucidate the notions of explanation and mechanism, in particular of the social kind. A mechanism is defined as what makes a concrete system tick, and it is argued that to propose an explanation proper is to exhibit a lawful mechanism. The so-called covering law model is shown to exhibit only the logical aspect of explanation: it just subsumes particulars under universals. A full or mechanismic explanation involves mechanismic law statements, not purely descriptive ones such as functional relations and rate equations. Many examples from the natural, biosocial, and social sciences are examined. In particular, macro-micro-micro-macro social relations are shown to explain other wise puzzling macro-macro links. The last part of the article relates the author's progress, over half a century, toward understanding mechanism and explanation.

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Mario Bunge
Last affiliation: McGill University

Citations of this work

The Ontic Account of Scientific Explanation.Carl F. Craver - 2014 - In Marie I. Kaiser, Oliver R. Scholz, Daniel Plenge & Andreas Hüttemann (eds.), Explanation in the Special Sciences: The Case of Biology and History. Springer Verlag. pp. 27-52.
Inference to the Best explanation.Peter Lipton - 2004 - In Martin Curd & Stathis Psillos (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Science. Routledge. pp. 193.
The Concept of Mechanism in Biology.Daniel J. Nicholson - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43 (1):152-163.
How does it work?: The search for explanatory mechanisms.Mario Bunge - 2004 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 34 (2):182-210.
Mechanisms in the analysis of social macro-phenomena.Renate Mayntz - 2004 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 34 (2):237-259.

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References found in this work

The Logic of Scientific Discovery.K. Popper - 1959 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 10 (37):55-57.
The Logic of Scientific Discovery.Karl R. Popper - 1959 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 14 (3):383-383.

View all 21 references / Add more references