Synthesizing activities and interactions in the concept of a mechanism

Philosophy of Science 71 (1):1-15 (2004)
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Abstract

Stuart Glennan, and the team of Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden, and Carl Craver have recently provided two accounts of the concept of a mechanism. The main difference between these two versions rests on how the behavior of the parts of the mechanism is conceptualized. Glennan considers mechanisms to be an interaction of parts, where the interaction between parts can be characterized by direct, invariant, change-relating generalizations. Machamer, Darden, and Craver criticize traditional conceptualizations of mechanisms which are based solely on parts interacting and introduce a new conceptactivity. This essay is an attempt at carving out a relationship between these two philosophical interpretations of a mechanism. I will claim that, rather than being in conflict, Glennan's concept of interaction and Machamer, Darden, and Craver's notion of activity actually complement one another, each emphasizing a missing element of the other.

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James Tabery
University of Utah

Citations of this work

Explanation: a mechanist alternative.William Bechtel & Adele Abrahamsen - 2005 - 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.
The Ontic Account of Scientific Explanation.Carl F. Craver - 2014 - In Marie I. Kaiser, Oliver R. Scholz, Daniel Plenge & Andreas Hüttemann (eds.), Explanation in the Special Sciences: The Case of Biology and History. Springer Verlag. pp. 27-52.
The Metaphysics of Constitutive Mechanistic Phenomena.Marie I. Kaiser & Beate Krickel - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (3).

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Discovery and Explanation in Biology and Medicine.Kenneth F. Schaffner - 1995 - Journal of the History of Biology 28 (1):172-174.
Nature's Capacities and Their Measurement.Tim Maudlin & Nancy Cartwright - 1993 - Journal of Philosophy 90 (11):599.

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