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Difference Mechanisms

Tabery, James (2008) Difference Mechanisms. In: [2008] Biological Explanations of Behavior: Philosophical Perspectives (Hannover, Germany; 12-15 June, 2008).

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    Abstract

    In recent years, philosophers of science have found a renewed interest in mechanisms. The motivation is the thought that the elucidation of a mechanism generates a causal explanation for the phenomenon under investigation. For example, a question such as, How do rats form spatial memories of their environments?, is answered by elucidating the regular causal mechanisms responsible for the individual development of spatial memory in rats. But consider a slightly different question: How do some rats come to have better spatial memory than other rats? This is a question about the causes of variation responsible for variation in spatial memory. The first question demands an answer about regularity; the second question demands an answer about variation. The account of causal-mechanical explanation on offer by philosophers of science captures regularity, but it neglects variation. In this essay, I attempt to modify the mechanical program so as to incorporate both regularity and variation. The task is to explicate the relationship between the regular causal mechanisms responsible for individual development and the causes of variation responsible for variation in populations. As it turns out, this is precisely the relationship that has divided the biometric research tradition and the developmental research tradition in the long-standing debates over genotype-environment interaction, or G×E. Ultimately, the product will be an account of causal-mechanical explanation that captures both regularity and variation, and which may be utilized to resolve an aspect of the debates over G×E.


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    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
    Keywords: causation, explanation, gene-environment interaction, behavioral genetics, ANOVA, heritability, developmental biology, mechanism, quantitative genetics
    Subjects: Specific Sciences > Probability/Statistics
    Specific Sciences > Biology > Neuroscience
    Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
    Specific Sciences > Biology
    General Issues > Causation
    General Issues > Explanation
    Specific Sciences > Biology > Developmental Biology
    Conferences and Volumes: [2008] Biological Explanations of Behavior: Philosophical Perspectives (Hannover, Germany; 12-15 June, 2008)
    Depositing User: James Tabery
    Date Deposited: 05 Jun 2008
    Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 11:16
    Item ID: 4051
    URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/4051

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