The Routledge Handbook of Mechanisms and Mechanical Philosophy  book cover
1st Edition

The Routledge Handbook of Mechanisms and Mechanical Philosophy

ISBN 9781138841697
Published July 10, 2017 by Routledge
492 Pages

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Book Description

Scientists studying the burning of stars, the evolution of species, DNA, the brain, the economy, and social change, all frequently describe their work as searching for mechanisms. Despite this fact, for much of the twentieth century philosophical discussions of the nature of mechanisms remained outside philosophy of science.

The Routledge Handbook of Mechanisms and Mechanical Philosophy is an outstanding reference source to the key topics, problems, and debates in this exciting subject and is the first collection of its kind. Comprising over thirty chapters by a team of international contributors, the Handbook is divided into four Parts:

  • Historical perspectives on mechanisms

  • The nature of mechanisms

  • Mechanisms and the philosophy of science

  • Disciplinary perspectives on mechanisms.

Within these Parts central topics and problems are examined, including the rise of mechanical philosophy in the seventeenth century; what mechanisms are made of and how they are organized; mechanisms and laws and regularities; how mechanisms are discovered and explained; dynamical systems theory; and disciplinary perspectives from physics, chemistry, biology, biomedicine, ecology, neuroscience, and the social sciences.

Essential reading for students and researchers in philosophy of science, the Handbook will also be of interest to those in related fields, such as metaphysics, philosophy of psychology, and history of science.

Table of Contents

Preface William C. Wimsatt

1. Introduction: Mechanisms and Mechanical Philosophies Stuart Glennan and Phyllis Illari

Part 1: Historical Perspectives on Mechanisms

2. Mechanisms: Ancient Sources Tiberiu Popa

3. From the Mechanical Philosophy to Early Modern Mechanisms Sophie Roux

4. The Origins of the Reaction Mechanism William Goodwin

5. Mechanism, Organicism and Vitalism Garland E. Allen

6. Mechanisms and the Mental Marcin Milkowski

Part 2: The Nature of Mechanisms

7. Varieties of Mechanisms Stuart Glennan and Phyllis Illari

8. Mechanisms, Phenomena, and Functions Justin Garson

9. The Components and Boundaries of Mechanisms Marie I. Kaiser

10. Mechanisms and the Metaphysics of Causation Lucas Matthews and James Tabery

11. Mechanisms, Counterfactuals and Laws Stavros Ioannidis and Stathis Psillos

12. What Would Hume Say? Regularities, Laws, and Mechanisms Holly Anderson

13. Probability and Chance in Mechanisms Marshall Abrams

14. Mechanistic Levels, Reduction and Emergence Mark Povich and Carl F. Craver

15. Mechanisms and Natural Kinds Emma Tobin

Part 3: Mechanisms and the Philosophy of Science

16. Mechanistic Explanation and its Limits Marta Halina

17. Models of Mechanisms John Matthewson

18. Explaining Visually: Mechanism Diagrams Adele Abrahamsen, Benjamin Sheredos, and William Bechtel

19. Strategies for Discovering Mechanisms Lindley Darden

20. Mechanisms and Dynamical Systems David Michael Kaplan

Part 4: Disciplinary Perspectives on Mechanisms

21. Mechanisms in Physics Meinard Kuhlmann

22. Mechanisms in Evolutionary Biology Lane DesAutels

23. Mechanisms in Molecular Biology Tudor M. Baetu

24. Mechanisms and Biomedicine Brendan Clarke and Federica Russo

25. Developmental Mechanisms Alan C. Love

26. Mechanisms in Ecology Viorel Pâslaru

27. Systems Biology and Mechanistic Explanation Ingo Brigandt, Sara Green, and Maureen A. O’Malley

28. Mechanistic Explanation in Neuroscience Catherine Stinson and Jacqueline Sullivan

29. Mechanisms in Cognitive Science Carlos Zednik

30. Social Mechanisms Petri Ylikoski

31. Disaggregating Historical Explanation: The Move to Social Mechanisms Daniel Little

32. Mechanisms in Economics Caterina Marchionni

33. Computational Mechanisms Gualtiero Piccinini

34. Mechanisms and Engineering Science Dingmar van Eck.


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Stuart Glennan is the Harry T. Ice Professor of Philosophy and Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Butler University, USA.

Phyllis Illari is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy of Science in the Science and Technology Studies Department at University College London, UK.


"... [A]n excellent guide to mechanism for newly interested readers. There is abundant material for a newcomer, and it covers a nearly exhaustive array of relevant topics… I highly recommend it as both a primer for newcomers to mechanism and for those already familiar with the framework." - Russell Meyer, Philosophical Psychology

"This terrific state-of-the-art volume provides a very thorough overview of the history of thinking about mechanisms, methodological and ontological issues surrounding the notion, and the role of mechanisms and mechanistic understanding in many areas of science. It will be invaluable for anyone with an interest in this topic." - James Woodward, University of Pittsburgh, USA

"These days philosophers are sure to encounter the notion of mechanism in more discussions of science than ever before. But mechanistic philosophy is as broad as it is varied, so a reliable guide is much needed. Assembled and curated with care, erudition, and excitement, this volume shows off the depth and breadth of the ways in which mechanisms figure in science, metaphysics, epistemology, and history of philosophy." - Anna Alexandrova, University of Cambridge, UK

"Glennan and Illari have put together a definitive overview of the many ways in which paying attention to mechanisms can illuminate scientific practice. I would recommend it to anyone wanting a point of entry into the flourishing field of mechanistic philosophy of science." - Jon Williamson, University of Kent, UK