Discovering Complexity: Decomposition and Localization as Strategies in Scientific Research

Discovering Complexity: Decomposition and Localization as Strategies in Scientific Research

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262514736
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 08/06/2010
Series: The MIT Press
Pages: 340
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

William Bechtel is Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is the author of Mental Mechanisms: Philosophical Perspectives on Cognitive Neuroscience and other books.

Robert C. Richardson is Charles Phelps Taft Professor of Philosophy and a University Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Cincinnati, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is the author of Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology (MIT Press, 2007).

Table of Contents

Preface to the MIT Press Edition xi

Preface to the Original Edition xiii

Introduction: Discovering Complexity-Further Perspectives xvii

1 The Appearance of a New Mechanistic Philosophy of Science xvi

2 Discovery Heuristics: Conceptual and Experimental xx

3 Decomposition and Localization xxviii

4 Recomposing and Situating Mechanisms xxxvii

5 Model Systems, Conserved Mechanisms, and Generalization xl

6 Rethinking Emergence xliv

7 Conclusion xlvii

Part I Scientific Discovery and Rationality

Chapter 1 Cognitive Strategies and Scientific Discovery 3

1 Rationalizing Scientific Discovery 3

2 Procedural Rationality 11

Chapter 2 Complex Systems and Mechanistic Explanations 17

1 Mechanistic Explanation 17

2 Decomposition and Localization 23

3 Hierarchy and Organization 27

4 Conclusion: Failure of Localization 31

Part II Emerging Mechanisms

Introduction 35

Chapter 3 Identifying the Locus of Control 39

1 Introduction: Identifying System and Context 39

2 External Control: The Environment as a Control 41

3 Internal Control: The System as a Control 47

4 Fixing on a Locus of Control: the Cell in Respiration 51

5 Conclusion: Localization of Function 59

Chapter 4 Direct Localization 63

1 Introduction: Relocating Control 63

2 Phrenology and Cerebral Localization 65

3 Competing Models of Cellular Respiration 72

4 Conclusion: Direct Localization and Competing Mechanisms 88

Chapter 5 The Rejection of Mechanism 93

1 Introduction: Mechanism and Its Opponents 93

2 Flourens and the Integrity of the Nervous System 95

3 The Vitalist Opposition to Mechanistic Physiology 99

4 Conclusion: Setting for Descriptions 113

Part III Elaborating Mechanisms

Introduction 119

Chapter 6 Complex Localization 125

1 Introduction: Constraints on Localization 125

2 Top-Down Constraints 128

3 Bottom-Up Constraints 138

4 Conclusion: The Rise and Decline of Decomposability 145

Chapter 7 Integrated Mechanisms 149

1 Introduction: Replacing a Direct Localization 149

2 Direct Localization of Fermentation in Zymase 153

3 A Complex Linear Model of Fermentation 156

4 An Integrated System Responsible for Fermentation 163

5 Conclusion: The Discovery of Integration 168

Chapter 8 Reconstituting the Phenomena 173

1 Introduction: Biochemical Genetics 173

2 Classical Genetics 175

3 Developmental Genetics 181

4 One Gene/One Enzyme 188

5 Conclusion: Reconstituting the Phenomena 192

Part IV Emergent Mechanism

Introduction 199

Chapter 9 "Emergent" Phenomena in Interconnected Networks 202

1 Introduction: Dispensing with Modules 202

2 Hierarchical Control: Hughlings Jackson's Analysis of the Nervous Systems 203

3 Parallel Distributed Processing and Cognition 210

4 Distributed Mechanisms for Genomic Regulation 223

5 Conclusion: Mechanistic Explanations without Functional Decomposition and Localization 227

Chapter 10 Constructing Causal Explanations 230

1 Decomposition and Localization in Perspective 230

2 Four Constraints on Development 234

3 Conclusion: Looking Forward 243

Notes 245

References 257

Index 281

What People are Saying About This

Lindley Darden

The first edition of Discovering Complexity pioneered what has come to be called 'the new mechanistic philosophy,' with original analyses of mechanistic explanation and the heuristics for discovering mechanisms in genetics, cell biology, and neuroscience. Having it back in print is a real service to philosophers and scientists investigating biological mechanisms, as well as critics of this approach. The new introduction is well worth reading on its own for an overview of the book's arguments, as well as summaries of the authors' more recent work on dynamic mechanistic explanations, discovery heuristics, emergence in systems biology, and circadian rhythms.

Carl F. Craver

In Discovering Complexity, Bechtel and Richardson sketched a blueprint for a post-reductive philosophy of science grounded in historical examples and focused on major heuristics and biases in the search for mechanisms. Many of the ideas in this book are as fresh today as they were when the book was first published; others have become the widely accepted background in the new mechanistic philosophy of science.

William C. Wimsatt

This classic of mechanistic analysis and explanation has been out of print for some years. It is reissued with a substantive new review of the explosion of interest in mechanistic explanation in philosophy of science and the crucial interpenetration of scientific and philosophical interests it represents. I welcome its return in even better form. MIT has done the profession a major service by reissuing this book. It should be required reading in any philosophy of science curriculum.

Paul Thagard

The original edition of Discovering Complexity was a landmark in the philosophy of science, with path-breaking accounts of explanation, mechanism, and the development of biological knowledge. This reissue is highly welcome, especially with the excellent new introduction that contains insightful updates about mechanisms, discovery, localization, emergence, and other crucial aspects of science.

From the Publisher

In Discovering Complexity, Bechtel and Richardson sketched a blueprint for a post-reductive philosophy of science grounded in historical examples and focused on major heuristics and biases in the search for mechanisms. Many of the ideas in this book are as fresh today as they were when the book was first published; others have become the widely accepted background in the new mechanistic philosophy of science.

Carl F. Craver, Washington University in St. Louis, author of Explaining the Brain

The first edition of Discovering Complexity pioneered what has come to be called 'the new mechanistic philosophy,' with original analyses of mechanistic explanation and the heuristics for discovering mechanisms in genetics, cell biology, and neuroscience. Having it back in print is a real service to philosophers and scientists investigating biological mechanisms, as well as critics of this approach. The new introduction is well worth reading on its own for an overview of the book's arguments, as well as summaries of the authors' more recent work on dynamic mechanistic explanations, discovery heuristics, emergence in systems biology, and circadian rhythms.

Lindley Darden, University of Maryland, College Park

The original edition of Discovering Complexity was a landmark in the philosophy of science, with path-breaking accounts of explanation, mechanism, and the development of biological knowledge. This reissue is highly welcome, especially with the excellent new introduction that contains insightful updates about mechanisms, discovery, localization, emergence, and other crucial aspects of science.

Paul Thagard, University of Waterloo, author of The Brain and the Meaning of Life

This classic of mechanistic analysis and explanation has been out of print for some years. It is reissued with a substantive new review of the explosion of interest in mechanistic explanation in philosophy of science and the crucial interpenetration of scientific and philosophical interests it represents. I welcome its return in even better form. MIT has done the profession a major service by reissuing this book. It should be required reading in any philosophy of science curriculum.

William C. Wimsatt, Peter M. Ritzma Professor of Philosophy, The University of Chicago

Endorsement

This classic of mechanistic analysis and explanation has been out of print for some years. It is reissued with a substantive new review of the explosion of interest in mechanistic explanation in philosophy of science and the crucial interpenetration of scientific and philosophical interests it represents. I welcome its return in even better form. MIT has done the profession a major service by reissuing this book. It should be required reading in any philosophy of science curriculum.

William C. Wimsatt, Peter M. Ritzma Professor of Philosophy, The University of Chicago

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