SOPhiA 2018

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

New Mechanistic Debate: The Devil Is in the Details
(Philosophy of Science, English)

I address the question of abstraction and detailing in the new mechanistic debate, namely, the explanatory role that they perform, and their importance for the understanding of mechanistic explanation. I argue that the abstraction has its merits as a representational tool, i.e., a role in helping scientists and general public to better understand complex phenomena. However, the explanatory power appears to be contained in the details, namely, in the details that mechanisms are made of. I argue that there are three explanatory steps in that regard: (1) collecting all the data or the data that are collected by scientific projects such as HGP or ENCODE in genomics; (2) extracting all the relevant data, i.e., the explanatory relevant data for the corresponding phenomena; (3) abstracting, i.e., sketches or models that are used as representations of a mechanism (see Craver and Kaplan (2018)).
The present paper emphasizes the importance of (2). (3), or the abstracting procedure, refers to "black-boxes" or areas in the models that are left vague in order to represent broad range of phenomena. (2), on the contrary, contains all the relevant data that are responsible for the explanation of the corresponding phenomenon by referring to different levels and grains of biological organization. I argue that the procedure of a mechanism detailing is more explanatory than the abstracting procedure. Nevertheless, there is a pressing issue of the criterion for the explanatory relevant data, which I address with regard to (3).
The structure of the paper is as follows: in Section 1, I briefly present recent trends in the mechanistic debate. In Section 2, I lay out the notion of abstraction in that debate, in particular, as advocated in Levy and Bechtel (2013). Finally, in Section 3, I argue for the explanatory power based on the detailing procedure, namely, by emphasizing step (2) in the abovementioned account.

Chair: Till Gallasch
Time: 17:40-18:10, 12 September 2018 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.005

Vito Balorda 
(Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Rijeka, Croatia)

I am a graduate student of philosophy and history at Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Rijeka, Croatia. Prior to that, I finished my BA, also on the same Faculty. My BA thesis was about the biological functions debate in the area of philosophy of biology. My research interests are focused on the discussions in philosophy of science, particularly in philosophy of biology. Currently, my main interest is on the new mechanistic debate within the frame of the scientific explanation debate.

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