Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-rkxrd Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-24T07:23:38.318Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Chapter 4 - Mechanisms as Causal Pathways

from Part II - Causation and Mechanism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 June 2022

Stavros Ioannidis
Affiliation:
University of Athens, Greece
Stathis Psillos
Affiliation:
University of Athens, Greece
Get access

Summary

In Chapter 4 we build on the discussion in Chapter 3 in order to argue that understanding mechanisms in the Causal Mechanism sense is all that is needed in order to understand biological practice. We clarify the main commitments of our view by presenting three theses that together constitute Causal Mechanism: (1) Mechanisms are to be identified with causal pathways; (2) causal relations among the components of a pathway are to be viewed in terms of difference-making; and (3) Causal Mechanism is metaphysically agnostic. A key point is that, in contrast to mechanistic theories of causation, for Causal Mechanism causation as difference-making is conceptually prior to the notion of a mechanism. We examine in some detail the discovery of the mechanism of scurvy in order to argue that difference-making is what matters in practice. We then turn to the main inflationary accounts of mechanism and contrast them with our deflationary view and its metaphysical agnosticism. We argue that Causal Mechanism offers a general characterisation of mechanism as a concept-in-use in the life sciences that is deflationary and thin, but still methodologically important.

Type
Chapter
Information
Mechanisms in Science
Method or Metaphysics?
, pp. 90 - 117
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×