Crash Testing an Engineering Framework in Neuroscience: Does the Idea of Robustness Break Down?

Philosophy of Science 84 (5):1140-1151 (2017)
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In this article, I discuss the concept of robustness in neuroscience. Various mechanisms for making systems robust have been discussed across biology and neuroscience. Many of these notions originate from engineering. I argue that concepts borrowed from engineering aid neuroscientists in operationalizing robustness, formulating hypotheses about mechanisms for robustness, and quantifying robustness. Furthermore, I argue that the significant disanalogies between brains and engineered artifacts raise important questions about the applicability of the engineering framework. I argue that the use of such concepts should be understood as a kind of simplifying idealization.



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Mazviita Chirimuuta
University of Pittsburgh

References found in this work

The Computer And The Brain.John Von Neumann - 1958 - New Haven: Yale University Press.
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.
Basic science through engineering? Synthetic modeling and the idea of biology-inspired engineering.Tarja Knuuttila & Andrea Loettgers - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (2):158-169.

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