Washington University in St. Louis
Philosophy/Neuroscience/Psychology Program
Rochester, New York, United States of America
  •  230
    The Narrow Ontic Counterfactual Account of Distinctively Mathematical Explanation
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 72 (2): 511-543. 2019.
    An account of distinctively mathematical explanation (DME) should satisfy three desiderata: it should account for the modal import of some DMEs; it should distinguish uses of mathematics in explanation that are distinctively mathematical from those that are not (Baron [2016]); and it should also account for the directionality of DMEs (Craver and Povich [2017]). Baron’s (forthcoming) deductive-mathematical account, because it is modelled on the deductive-nomological account, is unlikely to satisf…Read more
  •  127
    Constitutive Relevance and Mutual Manipulability Revisited
    with Carl F. Craver and Stuart Glennan
    Synthese 1-22. forthcoming.
    An adequate understanding of the ubiquitous practice of mechanistic explanation requires an account of what Craver (2007) termed “constitutive relevance.” Entities or activities are constitutively relevant to a phenomenon when they are parts of the mechanism responsible for that phenomenon. Craver’s mutual manipulability (MM) account extended Woodward’s account of manipulationist counterfactuals to analyze how interlevel experiments establish constitutive relevance. Critics of MM (e.g., Baumg…Read more
  •  147
    Philosophers of psychology debate, among other things, which psychological models, if any, are (or provide) mechanistic explanations. This should seem a little strange given that there is rough consensus on the following two claims: 1) a mechanism is an organized collection of entities and activities that produces, underlies, or maintains a phenomenon, and 2) a mechanistic explanation describes, represents, or provides information about the mechanism producing, underlying, or maintaining the phe…Read more
  •  178
    Information and explanation: an inconsistent triad and solution
    European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (2): 1-17. 2021.
    An important strand in philosophy of science takes scientific explanation to consist in the conveyance of some kind of information. Here I argue that this idea is also implicit in some core arguments of mechanists, some of whom are proponents of an ontic conception of explanation that might be thought inconsistent with it. However, informational accounts seem to conflict with some lay and scientific commonsense judgments and a central goal of the theory of explanation, because information is rel…Read more
  •  187
    Modality and constitution in distinctively mathematical explanations
    European Journal for Philosophy of Science 10 (3): 1-10. 2020.
    Lange argues that some natural phenomena can be explained by appeal to mathematical, rather than natural, facts. In these “distinctively mathematical” explanations, the core explanatory facts are either modally stronger than facts about ordinary causal law or understood to be constitutive of the physical task or arrangement at issue. Craver and Povich argue that Lange’s account of DME fails to exclude certain “reversals”. Lange has replied that his account can avoid these directionality charges.…Read more
  •  311
    Autonomist accounts of cognitive science suggest that cognitive model building and theory construction (can or should) proceed independently of findings in neuroscience. Common functionalist justifications of autonomy rely on there being relatively few constraints between neural structure and cognitive function (e.g., Weiskopf, 2011). In contrast, an integrative mechanistic perspective stresses the mutual constraining of structure and function (e.g., Piccinini & Craver, 2011; Povich, 2015). In t…Read more
  •  628
    Lange’s collection of expanded, mostly previously published essays, packed with numerous, beautiful examples of putatively non-causal explanations from biology, physics, and mathematics, challenges the increasingly ossified causal consensus about scientific explanation, and, in so doing, launches a new field of philosophic investigation. However, those who embraced causal monism about explanation have done so because appeal to causal factors sorts good from bad scientific explanations and becaus…Read more
  •  314
    Social Knowledge and Supervenience Revisited
    Erkenntnis 83 (5): 1033-1043. 2018.
    Bird’s Essays in Collective Epistemology, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2014) account of social knowledge denies that scientific social knowledge supervenes solely on the mental states of individuals. Lackey objects that SK cannot accommodate a knowledge-action principle and the role of group defeaters. I argue that Lackey’s knowledge-action principle is ambiguous. On one disambiguation, it is false; on the other, it is true but poses no threat to SK. Regarding group defeaters, I argue that t…Read more
  •  806
    Mechanistic Levels, Reduction, and Emergence
    In Stuart Glennan & Phyllis McKay Illari (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Mechanisms and Mechanical Philosophy, Routledge. pp. 185-97. 2017.
    We sketch the mechanistic approach to levels, contrast it with other senses of “level,” and explore some of its metaphysical implications. This perspective allows us to articulate what it means for things to be at different levels, to distinguish mechanistic levels from realization relations, and to describe the structure of multilevel explanations, the evidence by which they are evaluated, and the scientific unity that results from them. This approach is not intended to solve all metaphysical p…Read more
  •  149
    Minimal Models and the Generalized Ontic Conception of Scientific Explanation
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (1): 117-137. 2018.
    Batterman and Rice ([2014]) argue that minimal models possess explanatory power that cannot be captured by what they call ‘common features’ approaches to explanation. Minimal models are explanatory, according to Batterman and Rice, not in virtue of accurately representing relevant features, but in virtue of answering three questions that provide a ‘story about why large classes of features are irrelevant to the explanandum phenomenon’ ([2014], p. 356). In this article, I argue, first, that a met…Read more
  •  1130
    The directionality of distinctively mathematical explanations
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 63 31-38. 2017.
    In “What Makes a Scientific Explanation Distinctively Mathematical?” (2013b), Lange uses several compelling examples to argue that certain explanations for natural phenomena appeal primarily to mathematical, rather than natural, facts. In such explanations, the core explanatory facts are modally stronger than facts about causation, regularity, and other natural relations. We show that Lange's account of distinctively mathematical explanation is flawed in that it fails to account for the implicit…Read more
  •  553
    Mechanisms and Model-Based Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
    Philosophy of Science 82 (5): 1035-1046. 2015.
    Mechanistic explanations satisfy widely held norms of explanation: the ability to manipulate and answer counterfactual questions about the explanandum phenomenon. A currently debated issue is whether any nonmechanistic explanations can satisfy these explanatory norms. Weiskopf argues that the models of object recognition and categorization, JIM, SUSTAIN, and ALCOVE, are not mechanistic yet satisfy these norms of explanation. In this article I argue that these models are mechanism sketches. My ar…Read more