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Interventionist Omissions: A Critical Case Study of Mechanistic Explanation in Biology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Abstract

It is widely assumed that mechanistic explanations are causal explanations. Many prominent new mechanists endorse interventionism as the correct analysis of explanatory causal models in biology and other fields. This article argues that interventionism is not entirely satisfactory in this regard. A case study of Jacob and Monod’s operon model shows that at least some important mechanistic explanations in biology present significant contrasts with the interventionist account. This result motivates a more inclusive approach to mechanistic explanation, allowing for noncausal aspects.

Type
Interdisciplinarity
Information
Philosophy of Science , Volume 83 , Issue 5 , December 2016 , pp. 1082 - 1097
Copyright
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Footnotes

Thanks to Hanne Andersen, Bob Batterman, Ori Belkind, Jim Bogen, Carol Cleland, Carl Craver, Carrie Figdor, Richard Grandy, Matt Haber, Peter Machamer, Sandra Mitchell, Angela Potochnik, Federica Russo, Paul Teller, Jim Woodward, and Andrea Woody for helpful comments and discussions on the ideas in this article. Thanks also to three anonymous reviewers for Philosophy of Science for comments on an earlier draft. Many thanks as well to participants in the PSA Symposium “Philosophy of Interdisciplinarity” (November 2014) and in the work-in-progress discussion series at University of Pittsburgh’s Center for the Philosophy of Science (November 2013). Funding was provided by the Humanities Research Center at Rice University, the Mosle Research Foundation, the University of Utah College of Humanities, and a generous donation from the family of Sterling M. McMurrin.

References

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