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

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Tackling complexity in a non-mechanistic fashion: spatiotemporal aspects

Mechanistic explanations tend to portray biological systems as if they operate largely independently of their surroundings, and at single spatiotemporal scales. Increasingly, these assumptions are found wanting. Present-day biology, especially, contains explanations that appeal to aggregates, rather than individual components; and causal structures that operate on multiple scales at once.
We argue that these developments spell trouble for a traditional approach to biological complexity – the tendency to tackle big and complex systems in a piecemeal analytical fashion, most clearly expressed by the demand for mechanistic explanation. We then explore alternative, more holistic, approaches to studying complexity.

Author Information:

Arnon Levy    
Philosophy & HPS
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

William Bechtel    
Philosophy
UCSD

 

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