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

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Explanatory understanding without tracking mechanism operation

A mechanistic explanation details how the operation of a mechanism generates the phenomenon of interest. Although several have pointed to mathematical models in systems biology as instances of mechanistic explanations, I show how some models can provide explanatory understanding without tracking a mechanism’s operation. I focus on two ways of mathematically analyzing dynamical systems in systems biology. Bifurcation analysis does not track a mechanism operation, but provides explanatory understanding across different molecular parameters and different organizations. Sensitivity analysis does not show how an overall mechanism produces some behavior, but provides understanding of the different contributions made by different system components.

Author Information:

Ingo Brigandt    
Department of Philosophy
University of Alberta


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