While much of the recent literature on mechanisms has emphasized the superiority of mechanisms and mechanistic explanation over laws and nomological explanation, paradigmatic mechanisms—e.g., clocks or synapses – actually exhibit a great deal of stability in their behavior. And while mechanisms of this kind are certainly of great importance, there are many events that do not occur as a consequence of the operation of stable mechanisms. Events of natural and human history are often the consequence of causal processes that are ephemeral and capricious. In this paper I shall argue that, notwithstanding their ephemeral nature, these processes deserve to be called mechanisms. Ephemeral mechanisms share important characteristics with their more stable cousins, and these shared characteristics will help us to understand connections between scientific and historical explanation.
“The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10670-009-9203-9”.
Glennan, Stuart, "Ephemeral Mechanisms and Historical Explanation" Erkenntnis / (2009): 251-266.
Available at http://digitalcommons.butler.edu/facsch_papers/77