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The Functional Sense of Mechanism

Justin Garson
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 80, No. 3 (July 2013), pp. 317-333
DOI: 10.1086/671173
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/671173
Page Count: 17
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The Functional Sense of Mechanism
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Abstract

This article presents a distinct sense of ‘mechanism’, which I call the functional sense of mechanism. According to this sense, mechanisms serve functions, and this fact places substantive restrictions on the kinds of system activities ‘for which’ there can be a mechanism. On this view, there are no mechanisms for pathology; pathologies result from disrupting mechanisms for functions. Second, on this sense, natural selection is probably not a mechanism for evolution because it does not serve a function. After distinguishing this sense from similar explications of ‘mechanism’, I argue that it is ubiquitous in biology and has valuable epistemic benefits.

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