PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Real Patterns in Biological Explanation

In discussion of mechanisms, philosophers often debate about whether qualitative descriptions of generalizations or qualitative descriptions of operations are explanatorily fundamental. I argue that these debates have erred by conflating the explanatory role of generalizations and patterns. Patterns are types of quantitative relationships that hold between components in a mechanism, over time and/or across conditions. While these patterns must often be represented in addition to descriptions of operations in order to explain a phenomenon, they are not equivalent to generalizations, because their explanatory role does not depend on any specific facts about their scope or domain of invariance.  

Author Information:

Daniel Burnston    
Philosophy
Tulane University

 

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