Mechanisms and the nature of causation

Erkenntnis 44 (1):49--71 (1996)
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Abstract

In this paper I offer an analysis of causation based upon a theory of mechanisms-complex systems whose internal parts interact to produce a system's external behavior. I argue that all but the fundamental laws of physics can be explained by reference to mechanisms. Mechanisms provide an epistemologically unproblematic way to explain the necessity which is often taken to distinguish laws from other generalizations. This account of necessity leads to a theory of causation according to which events are causally related when there is a mechanism that connects them. I present reasons why the lack of an account of fundamental physical causation does not undermine the mechanical account.

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Stuart Glennan
Butler University

Citations of this work

Thinking about mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
The New Mechanical Philosophy.Stuart Glennan - 2017 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Explanation: a mechanist alternative.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (2):421-441.
What is a mechanism? Thinking about mechanisms across the sciences.Phyllis Illari & Jon Williamson - 2012 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (1):119-135.
Rethinking mechanistic explanation.Stuart Glennan - 2002 - Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002 (3):S342-353.

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