Mechanisms and their explanatory challenges in organic chemistry

Philosophy of Science 75 (5):970-982 (2008)
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Chemists take mechanisms to be an important way of explaining chemical change. I examine the usefulness of the mechanism approach in the recent philosophical literature in explicating the explanatory use of mechanisms by organic chemists. I argue that chemists consider a mechanism to be explanatory because it accounts for the “dynamic process of bringing about” (Tabery 2004 , 10) chemical change. For chemists, mechanisms are causal explanations based on interventions that show “how some possibilities depend on others” (Woodward 2003 , 375). Only possibilities are achievable because chemists face a number of challenges when they explain by means of a mechanism. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063; e‐mail: [email protected].



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Jeffry L. Ramsey
Smith College

Citations of this work

The Concept of Mechanism in Biology.Daniel J. Nicholson - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43 (1):152-163.
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Mechanistic Explanation in Systems Biology: Cellular Networks.Dana Matthiessen - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (1):1-25.
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