Philosophy of Science
Philosophers of science typically associate the causal-mechanical view of scientific explanation with the work of Railton and Salmon. In this paper I shall argue that the defects of this view arise from an inadequate analysis of the concept of mechanism. I contrast Salmon's account of mechanisms in terms of the causal nexus with my own account of mechanisms, in which mechanisms are viewed as complex systems. After describing these two concepts of mechanism, I show how the complex-systems approach avoids certain objections to Salmon's account of causal-mechanical explanation. I conclude by discussing how mechanistic explanations can provide understanding by unification.
This article was originally published in Philosophy of Science, 2002, Volume 69, Issue S3.
Stuart Glennan. "Rethinking mechanistic explanation" Philosophy of Science 69.3 (2002): S342-S353.