Models, Mechanisms, and Coherence

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (1):181-212 (2015)
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Abstract

Life-science phenomena are often explained by specifying the mechanisms that bring them about. The new mechanistic philosophers have done much to substantiate this claim and to provide us with a better understanding of what mechanisms are and how they explain. Although there is disagreement among current mechanists on various issues, they share a common core position and a seeming commitment to some form of scientific realism. But is such a commitment necessary? Is it the best way to go about mechanistic explanation? In this article, we propose an alternative antirealist account that also fits explanatory practice in the life sciences. We pay special attention to mechanistic models, i.e. scientific models that involve a mechanism, and to the role of coherence considerations in building such models. To illustrate our points, we consider the mechanism for the action potential. 1 Introduction2 Some Core Features of Mechanistic Explanation3 Scientific Realism and Mechanistic Explanation4 Antirealist Mechanistic Explanation: The Case of the Action Potential5 Some Outstanding Issues for the Antirealist Mechanist6 Two Problems for the Realist Mechanist7 Conclusions.

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Author Profiles

Stephan Hartmann
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München
Matteo Colombo
Tilburg University

Citations of this work

Mechanistic inquiry and scientific pursuit: The case of visual processing.Philipp Haueis & Lena Kästner - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 93 (C):123-135.
Coherence in Science: A Social Approach.Sanford C. Goldberg & Kareem Khalifa - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (12):3489-3509.
Against Computational Perspectivalism.Dimitri Coelho Mollo - 2021 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 72 (4):1129-1153.

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References found in this work

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Ian Hacking.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas Samuel Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Otto Neurath.
Models in Science (2nd edition).Roman Frigg & Stephan Hartmann - 2021 - The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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