Difference making, explanatory relevance, and mechanistic models.

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THEORIA. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science, ISSN: 0495-4548, Vol: 31, Issue: 1, Page: 125-134

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van Eck, Dingmar; Gervais, Raoul
UPV/EHU Press; Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea / Universidad del PaĆ­s Vasco
Arts and Humanities
article description
In this paper we consider mechanistic explanations for biological malfunctions. Drawing on Lipton's (1993) work on difference making, we offer three reasons why one should distinguish i) mechanistic features that only make a difference to the malfunction one aims to explain, from ii) features that make a difference to both the malfunction and normal functioning. Recognition of the distinction is important for a) repair purposes, b) mechanism discovery, and c) understanding. This analysis extends current mechanistic thinking, which fails to appreciate the distinction. We illustrate our contribution with a case on sleeping disorders as arising from disruptions of circadian rhythms.