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Thinking about Mechanisms

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 April 2022

Peter Machamer*
Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh
Lindley Darden
Committee on History and Philosophy of Science, University of Maryland
Carl F. Craver
Department of Philosophy, Florida International University
Send requests for reprints to Lindley Darden, Department of Philosophy, 1125A Skinner Building, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742;


The concept of mechanism is analyzed in terms of entities and activities, organized such that they are productive of regular changes. Examples show how mechanisms work in neurobiology and molecular biology. Thinking in terms of mechanisms provides a new framework for addressing many traditional philosophical issues: causality, laws, explanation, reduction, and scientific change.

Research Article
Copyright © 2000 by the Philosophy of Science Association

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We thank the following people for their help: D. Bailer-Jones, A. Baltas, J. Bogen, R. Burian, G. Carmadi, R. Clifton, N. Comfort, S. Culp, F. di Poppa, G. Gale, S. Glennan, N. Hall, L. Holmes, T. Iseda, J. Josephson, J. Lederberg, J. E. McGuire, G. Piccinini, P. Pietroski, H. Rheinberger, W. Salmon, S. Sastry, K. Schaffner, R. Skipper, P. Speh, D. Thaler, and N. Urban. Lindley Darden's work was supported by the General Research Board of the Graduate School of the University of Maryland and as a Fellow in the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh; Carl Craver's work was supported by a Cognitive Studies Postdoctoral Fellowship of the Department of Philosophy of the University of Maryland. Both Lindley Darden and Carl Craver were supported by a National Science Foundation Grant (SBR-9817942); any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Science Foundation.


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