Conceitos causais em biologia: como que os caminhos diferem dos mecanismos e por que eles importam

terça-feira, abril 03, 2018

Causal concepts in biology: How pathways differ from mechanisms and why it matters

Ross, Lauren N. (2018) Causal concepts in biology: How pathways differ from mechanisms and why it matters. [Preprint]


In the last two decades few topics in philosophy of science have received as much attention as mechanistic explanation. A significant motivation for these accounts is that scientists frequently use the term “mechanism” in their explanations of biological phenomena. While scientists appeal to a variety of causal concepts in their explanations, many philosophers argue or assume that all of these concepts are well understood with the single notion of mechanism (Robins and Craver 2009; Craver 2007). This reveals a significant problem with mainstream mechanistic accounts– although philosophers use the term “mechanism” interchangeably with other causal concepts, this is not something that scientists always do. This paper analyses two causal concepts in biology–the notions of “mechanism” and “pathway”–and how they figure in biological explanation. I argue that these concepts have unique features, that they are associated with distinct strategies of causal investigation, and that they figure in importantly different types of explanation.

Kewwords: causation, explanation, mechanism, mechanistic explanation, philosophy of biology, philosophy of neuroscience, philosophy of medicine.