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Mechanisms, Explanation and Understanding in Physics

Dieks, Dennis (2017) Mechanisms, Explanation and Understanding in Physics. [Preprint]

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Abstract

The Scientific Revolution is often associated with a transition to a ``mechanistic'' world view. However, ``mechanization'' is not the term that best captures the distinctive nature of modern physics: ``mathematization'' would be a better characterization. Modern physics attempts to find mathematical relations between quantities, and does not require that these relations be interpreted in terms of mechanisms. Moreover, in modern physics there are cases in which it is unnatural to give the mathematical formalism a mechanistic interpretation, even if ``mechanistic'' is broadly construed. Both on the level of ontology and that of explanation physics turns out to be more general and liberal than what is suggested by the catchphrase that physics explains by identifying mechanisms. Although mechanistic explanation remains an important conceptual tool, in particular for achieving understanding, it is not the only one available and cannot lay claim to fundamentality.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Dieks, Dennisd.dieks@uu.nl0000-0003-4755-3430
Additional Information: Preprint of chapter 4 of: B. Falkenburg, G. Schiemann (eds.), Mechanistic Explanations in Physics and Beyond, European Studies in Philosophy of Science vol. 11, Springer 2019
Keywords: Mechanistic explanation, understanding, physics
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Specific Sciences > Physics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Mechanics
Depositing User: Dennis Dieks
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2019 14:46
Last Modified: 25 Feb 2019 14:46
Item ID: 15769
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Physics > Classical Physics
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Specific Sciences > Physics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Mechanics
Date: 22 May 2017
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/15769

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