, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 693-697
Date: 16 Mar 2012

The heuristics of mechanism discovery

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access
This is an excerpt from the content

William Bechtel & Robert Richardson’s Discovering Complexity was originally published in 1993 and reissued in 2010. The original book is an impressive extended examination of the process of discovering mechanistic explanations, illustrated throughout with detailed historical case-studies including fermentation, cellular respiration, phrenology, language processing, developmental genetics, various approaches to the nervous system, and the debate over vitalism. Bechtel & Richardson explain that they use these as sources of insight into features of science that their philosophical account is supposed to explain. The 2010 edition also offers a new preface and useful extended introduction giving Bechtel & Richardson’s own reassessment of their work.

Discovering Complexity is rich in both historical detail and philosophical significance. I have a great deal to say about it but—forced to choose—I will examine two of the elements of the work that Bechtel & Richardson themselves identify as impo ...