Functions and Mechanisms: A Perspectivalist View

  • Carl F. Craver
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 363)


Though the mechanical philosophy is traditionally associated with the rejection of teleological description and explanation, the theories of the contemporary physiological sciences, such as neuroscience, are replete with both functional and mechanistic descriptions. I explore the relationship between these two stances, showing how functional description contributes to the search for mechanisms. I discuss three ways that functional descriptions contribute to the explanations and mechanistic theories in contemporary neuroscience: as a way of tersely indicating an etiological explanation, as a way of framing constitutive explanations, and as a way of explaining the item by situating it within higher-level mechanisms. This account of functional description is ineliminably perspectival in the sense that it relies ultimately on decisions by an observer about what matters or is of interest in the system they study.


NMDA Receptor Mechanistic Explanation Causal Structure Functional Description Mechanistic Description 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology ProgramWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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