Mechanisms are real and local

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Causality in the Sciences, Page: 818-844

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Illari, Phyllis McKay; Williamson, Jon
Oxford University Press (OUP)
book chapter description
Mechanisms have become much-discussed, yet there is still no consensus on how to characterize them. This chapter starts with something everyone is agreed on-that mechanisms explain-and investigate what constraints this imposes on our metaphysics of mechanisms. The chapter examines two widely shared premises about how to understand mechanistic explanation: (1) that mechanistic explanation offers a welcome alternative to traditional laws-based explanation and (2) that there are two senses of mechanistic explanation that the chapter calls 'epistemic explanation' and 'physical explanation'. The chapter argues that mechanistic explanation requires that mechanisms are both real and local. The chapter then goes on to argue that real, local mechanisms require a broadly active metaphysics for mechanisms, such as a capacities metaphysics.