Erkenntnis 78 (2):237-255 (2013)

Phyllis Illari
University College London
Craver claims that mechanistic explanation is ontic, while Bechtel claims that it is epistemic. While this distinction between ontic and epistemic explanation originates with Salmon, the ideas have changed in the modern debate on mechanistic explanation, where the frame of the debate is changing. I will explore what Bechtel and Craver’s claims mean, and argue that good mechanistic explanations must satisfy both ontic and epistemic normative constraints on what is a good explanation. I will argue for ontic constraints by drawing on Craver’s work in Sect. 2.1, and argue for epistemic constraints by drawing on Bechtel’s work in Sect. 2.2. Along the way, I will argue that Bechtel and Craver actually agree with this claim. I argue that we should not take either kind of constraints to be fundamental, in Sect. 3, and close in Sect. 4 by considering what remains at stake in making a distinction between ontic and epistemic constraints on mechanistic explanation. I suggest that we should not concentrate on either kind of constraint, to the neglect of the other, arguing for the importance of seeing the relationship as one of integration
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DOI 10.1007/s10670-013-9511-y
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References found in this work BETA

Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
Explaining the Brain.Carl F. Craver - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
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.

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Citations of this work BETA

Minimal Models and the Generalized Ontic Conception of Scientific Explanation.Mark Povich - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (1):117-137.
Should explanation be a guide to ground?Alexander Skiles & Kelly Trogdon - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (12):4083-4098.

View all 39 citations / Add more citations

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Determinism is Ontic, Determinability is Epistemic.Harald Atmanspacher - 2001 - In Harald Atmanspacher & Robert C. Bishop (eds.), Between Chance and Choice: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Determinism. Thorverton Uk: Imprint Academic. pp. 49--74.
Scientific Explanation: Three Basic Conceptions.Wesley C. Salmon - 1984 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1984:293 - 305.
When Mechanistic Models Explain.Carl F. Craver - 2006 - Synthese 153 (3):355-376.


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