Show Reference: "Thinking about Mechanisms"

Thinking about Mechanisms Philosophy of Science, Vol. 67, No. 1. (2000), pp. 1-25, doi:10.2307/188611 by Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden, Carl F. Craver
    abstract = {The concept of mechanism is analyzed in terms of entities and activities, organized such that they are productive of regular changes. Examples show how mechanisms work in neurobiology and molecular biology. Thinking in terms of mechanisms provides a new framework for addressing many traditional philosophical issues: causality, laws, explanation, reduction, and scientific change.},
    author = {Machamer, Peter and Darden, Lindley and Craver, Carl F.},
    citeulike-article-id = {1098190},
    citeulike-linkout-0 = {},
    citeulike-linkout-1 = {},
    doi = {10.2307/188611},
    journal = {Philosophy of Science},
    keywords = {biology, philosophy, representations, science, theories},
    number = {1},
    pages = {1--25},
    posted-at = {2014-08-22 11:08:36},
    priority = {2},
    title = {Thinking about Mechanisms},
    url = {},
    volume = {67},
    year = {2000}

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Phenomenology is often described by different theories at different levels of resolution.

Scientific theories must often presuppose entities below their level of resolution even if those entities are not part of any lower-resolution theory; for some theories there is no such lower-resolution theory.

Machamer et al. define mechanisms as:

[...] entities and activities organized such that they are productive of regular changes from start or set-up to finish or termination conditions.

A description of a mechanism producing a phenomenon explains the phenomenon.

Scientists do not always flesh out their theories in full. They often only describe those parts they are interested in (and leave the rest in an abstract form). Machamer et al. call descriptions of mechanisms which leave detailed specification of some of their activities and entities mechanism schemata.

Devising a mechanism schema can guide scientific progress: Presupposing an activity for necessity can make one look for the entity that can perform that activity.

Machamer et al. call a mechanism schema with explicitly missing parts a mechanism sketch.

Machamer et al. call the use of aggregated mechanisms from lower resolution theories in a higher-resolution theory bottoming out.

Machamer et al. say that bottoming out is necessary to make a theory intelligible.

Machamer et al. say that bottoming out is necessary to make a theory intelligible.

Machamer et al. say that explaining in terms of mechanisms promotes intelligibility.