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The Case for Regularity in Mechanistic Causal Explanation

Andersen, Holly (2011) The Case for Regularity in Mechanistic Causal Explanation. Synthese. pp. 1-18. ISSN 1573-0964


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How regular do mechanisms need to be, in order to count as mechanisms? This paper addresses two arguments for dropping the requirement of regularity from the definition of a mechanism, one motivated by examples from the sciences and the other motivated by metaphysical considerations regarding causation. I defend a broad- ened regularity requirement on mechanisms that takes the form of a taxonomy of kinds of regularity that mechanisms may exhibit. This taxonomy allows precise explication of the degree and location of regular operation within a mechanism, and highlights the role that various kinds of regularity play in scientific explanation. I defend this reg- ularity requirement in terms of regularity’s role in individuating mechanisms against a background of other causal processes, and by prioritizing mechanisms’ ability to serve as a model of scientific explanation, rather than as a metaphysical account of causation. It is because mechanisms are regular, in the expanded sense described here, that they are capable of supporting the kinds of generalizations that figure prominently in scientific explanations.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Keywords: mechanisms; explanation; causation; regularity
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Explanation
Depositing User: Dr. Holly Andersen
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2013 13:53
Last Modified: 13 Mar 2013 13:53
Item ID: 9622
Journal or Publication Title: Synthese
Publisher: Springer (Springer Science+Business Media B.V.)
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1007/s11229-011-9965-x
Subjects: General Issues > Causation
General Issues > Explanation
Date: 15 June 2011
Page Range: pp. 1-18
ISSN: 1573-0964

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