Mechanistic Explanations and Deliberate Misrepresentations


The philosophy of mechanisms has developed rapidly during the last 30 years. As mechanisms-based explanations are often seen as an alternative to nomological, law-based explanations, MBEs could be relevant in IS. We begin by offering a short history of mechanistic philosophy and set out to clarify the contemporary landscape. We then suggest that mechanistic models provide an alternative to variance and process models in IS. Finally, we highlight how MBEs typically contain deliberate misrepresentations. Although MBEs have recently been advocated as critical realist accounts in IS, idealizations seem to violate some fundamental tenets of CR and research method principles for CR. Idealizations in MBEs, therefore, may risk being regarded as flawed in IS. If it turns out that CR cannot account for idealizations, naturalism can, and it does so without extra-philosophical baggage.

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Mikko Siponen
University of Jyväskylä
Marco J. Nathan
University of Denver

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