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Mechanistic Abstraction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


We provide an explicit taxonomy of legitimate kinds of abstraction within constitutive explanation. We argue that abstraction is an inherent aspect of adequate mechanistic explanation. Mechanistic explanations—even ideally complete ones—typically involve many kinds of abstraction and therefore do not require maximal detail. Some kinds of abstraction play the ontic role of identifying the specific complex components, subsets of causal powers, and organizational relations that produce a suitably general phenomenon. Therefore, abstract constitutive explanations are both legitimate and mechanistic.

Unifying the Mind-Brain Sciences
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Thanks to Brice Bantegnie, Sergio Barberis, Mazviita Chirimuuta, Carl Craver, Stuart Glennan, Eric Hochstein, Anne Jacobson, Arnon Levy, Marcin Milkowski, Tom Polger, two anonymous referees, and especially Ken Aizawa for helpful comments on previous drafts. Gualtiero Piccinini was partially supported by a University of Missouri Research Board Award.


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