Biological Clocks: Explaining with Models of Mechanisms

Sarah K. Robins and Carl F. Craver

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Neuroscience

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780195304787
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199891993 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Biological Clocks: Explaining with Models of Mechanisms

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This article examines the concept of mechanistic explanation by considering the mechanism of circadian rhythm or biological clocks. It provides an account of mechanistic explanation and some common failures of mechanistic explanation and discusses the sense in which mechanistic explanations typically span multiple levels. The article suggests that models that describe mechanisms are more useful for the purposes of manipulation and control than are scientific models that do not describe mechanisms. It comments on the criticism that the mechanistic explanation is far too simple to fully express the complexity of real explanations in neuroscience and that neuroscientific explanations require emergent properties that cannot be explained by decomposition into the parts, activities, and organizational features that constitute the mechanism.

Keywords: mechanistic explanation; circadian rhythm; biological clocks; scientific models; neuroscience; neuroscientific explanation

Article.  12766 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Science

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