Models, robustness, and non-causal explanation: a foray into cognitive science and biology

Synthese 192 (12):3943-3959 (2015)
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This paper is aimed at identifying how a model’s explanatory power is constructed and identified, particularly in the practice of template-based modeling (Humphreys, Philos Sci 69:1–11, 2002; Extending ourselves: computational science, empiricism, and scientific method, 2004), and what kinds of explanations models constructed in this way can provide. In particular, this paper offers an account of non-causal structural explanation that forms an alternative to causal–mechanical accounts of model explanation that are currently popular in philosophy of biology and cognitive science. Clearly, defences of non-causal explanation are far from new (e.g. Batterman, Br J Philos Sci 53:21–38, 2002a; The devil in the details: asymptotic reasoning in explanation, reduction, and emergence, 2002b; Pincock, Noûs 41:253–275, 2007; Mathematics and scientific representation 2012; Rice, Noûs. doi:10.1111/nous.12042, 2013; Biol Philos 27:685–703, 2012), so the targets here are focused on a particular type of robust phenomenon and how strong invariance to interventions can block a range of causal explanations. By focusing on a common form of model construction, the paper also ties functional or computational style explanations found in cognitive science and biology more firmly with explanatory practices across model-based science in general.



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Elizabeth Irvine
Cardiff University

Citations of this work

Explanation in Computational Neuroscience: Causal and Non-causal.M. Chirimuuta - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (3):849-880.
Models and Explanation.Alisa Bokulich - 2017 - In Lorenzo Magnani & Tommaso Wayne Bertolotti (eds.), Springer Handbook of Model-Based Science. Springer. pp. 103-118.

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References found in this work

Vision.David Marr - 1982 - W. H. Freeman.
Making Things Happen: A Theory of Causal Explanation.James Woodward - 2003 - New York, US: Oxford University Press.
Explaining the Brain: Mechanisms and the Mosaic Unity of Neuroscience.Carl F. Craver - 2007 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press, Clarendon Press.
Thinking about mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.

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