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Chapter 5 - Mechanisms, Causation and Laws

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
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Summary

In Chapter 5, we examine the relation between mechanisms and laws/counterfactuals by revisiting the main notions of mechanism found in the literature. We distinguish between two different conceptions of ‘mechanism’: mechanisms-of and mechanisms-for. We argue that for both mechanisms-of and mechanisms-for, counterfactuals and laws are central for understanding within-mechanism interactions. Concerning mechanisms-for, we claim that the existence of irregular mechanisms is compatible with the view that mechanisms operate according to laws. The discussion in this chapter, then, points to an asymmetrical dependence between mechanisms and laws/counterfactuals: while some laws and counterfactuals must be taken as primitive (non-mechanistic) facts of the world, all mechanisms depend on laws/counterfactuals.

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Mechanisms in Science
Method or Metaphysics?
, pp. 118 - 137
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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