European Journal for Philosophy of Science

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 337–353 | Cite as

Filling in the mechanistic details: two-variable experiments as tests for constitutive relevance

Original paper in Philosophy of Biology

Abstract

This paper provides an account of the experimental conditions required for establishing whether correlating or causally relevant factors are constitutive components of a mechanism connecting input (start) and output (finish) conditions. I argue that two-variable experiments, where both the initial conditions and a component postulated by the mechanism are simultaneously manipulated on an independent basis, are usually required in order to differentiate between correlating or causally relevant factors and constitutively relevant ones. Based on a typical research project molecular biology, a flowchart model detailing typical stages in the formulation and testing of hypotheses about mechanistic components is also developed.

Keywords

Molecular biology Experimentation Mechanistic explanation Causal relevance 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Lindley Darden, as well as the editor and two anonymous reviewers for very useful comments on earlier drafts.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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