II—James Woodward: Mechanistic Explanation: Its Scope and Limits

Citation data:

Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume, ISSN: 0309-7013, Vol: 87, Issue: 1, Page: 39-65

Publication Year:
2013
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Repository URL:
http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/10981
DOI:
10.1111/j.1467-8349.2013.00219.x
Author(s):
Woodward, James
Publisher(s):
Oxford University Press (OUP)
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article description
This paper, part of an Aristotelian Society (2013) symposium with John Dupre, explores the question of whether all or most explanations in biology are, or ideally should be, ‘mechanistic’. I begin by providing an account of mechanistic explanation, making use of the interventionist ideas about causation I have developed elsewhere. This account emphasizes the way in which mechanistic explanations, at least in the biological sciences, integrate difference-making and spatio-temporal information, and exhibit what I call fine-tunedness of organization. I also emphasize the role played by modularity conditions in mechanistic explanation. I will then argue, in agreement with Dupré, that, given this account, it is plausible that many biological systems require explanations that are relatively non-mechanical or depart from expectations one associates with the behaviour of machines