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A Regularist Approach to Mechanistic Type-Level Explanation

A Regularist Approach to Mechanistic Type-Level Explanation Most defenders of the new mechanistic approach accept ontic constraints for successful scientific explanation (Illari [2013]; Craver [2014]). The minimal claim is that scientific explanations have objective truthmakers, namely, mechanisms that exist in the physical world, independent of any observer, and that cause or constitute the phenomena-to-be-explained. How can this idea be applied to type-level explanations? Many authors at least implicitly assume that in order for mechanisms to be the truthmakers of type-level explanation, they need to be regular (Andersen [2012]; Sheredos [2016]). One problem of this assumption is that most mechanisms are (highly) stochastic in the sense that they ‘fail more often than they succeed’ (Bogen [2005]; Andersen [2012]). How can a mechanism type whose instances are more likely not to produce an instance of a particular phenomenon type be the truthmaker of the explanation of that particular phenomenon type? In this article, I will give an answer to this question. I will analyse the notion of regularity and I will discuss Andersen's suggestion for how to cope with stochastic mechanisms. I will argue that her suggestion cannot account for all kinds of stochastic mechanisms and does not provide an answer as to why regularity grounds type-level explanation. According to my analysis, a mechanistic type-level explanation is true if and only if at least one of the following two conditions is satisfied: the mechanism brings about the phenomenon more often than any other phenomenon (‘comparative regularity’) or the phenomenon is more often brought about by the mechanism than by any other mechanism or causal sequence (‘comparative reverse regularity’).1 Introduction2 The Minimal Characterization of Mechanisms and Mechanistic Explanation3 Regularity4 Reverse Regularity5 Comparative Regularity and Reverse Regularity6 Multiple Realization, Multi-functionality, and the Individuation of Types7 Conclusion http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science Oxford University Press

A Regularist Approach to Mechanistic Type-Level Explanation

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Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
ISSN
0007-0882
eISSN
1464-3537
DOI
10.1093/bjps/axx011
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Most defenders of the new mechanistic approach accept ontic constraints for successful scientific explanation (Illari [2013]; Craver [2014]). The minimal claim is that scientific explanations have objective truthmakers, namely, mechanisms that exist in the physical world, independent of any observer, and that cause or constitute the phenomena-to-be-explained. How can this idea be applied to type-level explanations? Many authors at least implicitly assume that in order for mechanisms to be the truthmakers of type-level explanation, they need to be regular (Andersen [2012]; Sheredos [2016]). One problem of this assumption is that most mechanisms are (highly) stochastic in the sense that they ‘fail more often than they succeed’ (Bogen [2005]; Andersen [2012]). How can a mechanism type whose instances are more likely not to produce an instance of a particular phenomenon type be the truthmaker of the explanation of that particular phenomenon type? In this article, I will give an answer to this question. I will analyse the notion of regularity and I will discuss Andersen's suggestion for how to cope with stochastic mechanisms. I will argue that her suggestion cannot account for all kinds of stochastic mechanisms and does not provide an answer as to why regularity grounds type-level explanation. According to my analysis, a mechanistic type-level explanation is true if and only if at least one of the following two conditions is satisfied: the mechanism brings about the phenomenon more often than any other phenomenon (‘comparative regularity’) or the phenomenon is more often brought about by the mechanism than by any other mechanism or causal sequence (‘comparative reverse regularity’).1 Introduction2 The Minimal Characterization of Mechanisms and Mechanistic Explanation3 Regularity4 Reverse Regularity5 Comparative Regularity and Reverse Regularity6 Multiple Realization, Multi-functionality, and the Individuation of Types7 Conclusion

Journal

The British Journal for the Philosophy of ScienceOxford University Press

Published: Dec 1, 2018

References