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Philosophy

Physical Sciences and Mathematics

Stuart Glennan

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Full-Text Articles in Philosophy

Rethinking Mechanistic Explanation, Stuart Glennan Feb 2011

Rethinking Mechanistic Explanation, Stuart Glennan

Stuart Glennan

Philosophers of science typically associate the causal-mechanical view of scientific explanation with the work of Railton and Salmon. In this paper I shall argue that the defects of this view arise from an inadequate analysis of the concept of mechanism. I contrast Salmon's account of mechanisms in terms of the causal nexus with my own account of mechanisms, in which mechanisms are viewed as complex systems. After describing these two concepts of mechanism, I show how the complex-systems approach avoids certain objections to Salmon's account of causal-mechanical explanation. I conclude by discussing how mechanistic explanations can provide understanding ...


Rethinking Mechanistic Explanation, Stuart Glennan Apr 2010

Rethinking Mechanistic Explanation, Stuart Glennan

Stuart Glennan

Philosophers of science typically associate the causal-mechanical view of scientific explanation with the work of Railton and Salmon. In this paper I shall argue that the defects of this view arise from an inadequate analysis of the concept of mechanism. I contrast Salmon's account of mechanisms in terms of the causal nexus with my own account of mechanisms, in which mechanisms are viewed as complex systems. After describing these two concepts of mechanism, I show how the complex-systems approach avoids certain objections to Salmon's account of causal-mechanical explanation. I conclude by discussing how mechanistic explanations can provide understanding ...