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The Nature of Dynamical Explanation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Abstract

The received view of dynamical explanation is that dynamical cognitive science seeks to provide covering-law explanations of cognitive phenomena. By analyzing three prominent examples of dynamicist research, I show that the received view is misleading: some dynamical explanations are mechanistic explanations and in this way resemble computational and connectionist explanations. Interestingly, these dynamical explanations invoke the mathematical framework of dynamical systems theory to describe mechanisms far more complex and distributed than the ones typically considered by philosophers. Therefore, contemporary dynamicist research reveals the need for a more sophisticated account of mechanistic explanation.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Footnotes

Special thanks for valuable feedback during the preparation of this manuscript go to Adele Abrahamsen, Colin Allen, Randy Beer, Tony Chemero, Paul Williams, and four reviewers at Philosophy of Science. This research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship for the Dynamics of Brain-Body-Environment Systems in Behavior and Cognition at Indiana University.

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