Biology & Philosophy

, 33:36 | Cite as

Mechanisms, resources, and background conditions

  • Colin Klein


Distinguishing mechanistic components from mere causally relevant background conditions remains a difficulty for mechanistic accounts of explanation. By distinguishing resources from mechanical parts, I argue that we can more effectively draw this boundary. Further, the distinction makes obvious that there are distinctive resource explanations which are not captured by a traditional part-based mechanistic account. While this suggests a straightforward extension of the mechanistic model, I argue that incorporating resources and resource explanations requires moving beyond the purely local account of levels that some mechanists advocate.


Mechanism Resources Background conditions Explanation Levels 



Thanks to Peter Clutton, Liz Irvine, Annelli Janssen, Meg Ivory, Chris Lean, Marco Viola, Elizabeth Schier, and participants at the 2014 Cognitive Science Kioloa workshop for helpful comments on earlier drafts. Thanks to Yellow Car, and indirectly to Karen Bennett, for inspiring many of the automotive examples. This research was supported by Australian Research Council Grant FT140100422.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PhilosophyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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