Mechanisms without mechanistic explanation

Synthese:1-18 (2017)
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Abstract

Some recent accounts of constitutive relevance have identified mechanism components with entities that are causal intermediaries between the input and output of a mechanism. I argue that on such accounts there is no distinctive inter-level form of mechanistic explanation and that this highlights an absence in the literature of a compelling argument that there are such explanations. Nevertheless, the entities that these accounts call ‘components’ do play an explanatory role. Studying causal intermediaries linking variables Xand Y provides knowledge of the counterfactual conditions under which X will continue to bring about Y. This explanatory role does not depend on whether intermediate variables count as components. The question of whether there are distinctively mechanistic explanations remains open.

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