, Volume 195, Issue 1, pp 11–33 | Cite as

Making mechanism interesting

  • Alex Rosenberg


I note the multitude of ways in which, beginning with the classic paper by Machamer et al. (Philos Sci 67:1–25, 2000), the mechanists have qualify their methodological dicta, and limit the vulnerability of their claims by strategic vagueness regarding their application. I go on to generalize a version of the mechanist requirement on explanations due to Craver and Kaplan (Philos Sci 78(4):601–627, 2011) in cognitive and systems neuroscience so that it applies broadly across the life sciences in accordance with the view elaborated by Craver and Darden in In Search of Mechanisms (2013). I then go on to explore what ramifications their mechanist requirement on explanations may have for explanatory “dependencies” reported in biology and the special sciences. What this exploration suggests is that mechanism threatens to eliminate instead of underwrite a large number of such “dependencies” reported in higher-levels of biology and the special sciences. I diagnose the source of this threat in mechanism’s demand that explanations identify nested causal differences makers in mechanisms, their components, the components further components, and so forth. Finally, I identify the “love–hate” relationship mechanism must have with functional explanation, and show how it makes mechanism an extremely interesting thesis indeed.


Mechanism Autonomy Causation Functionalism 



I have no conflict of interest to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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