28 Oct 2013
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
470 Stephens Hall
Professor, Philosophy of Science, University of Exeter
There has been a great resurgence of interest in mechanism in recent philosophy of science, especially philosophy of biology. While this has been salutary in many ways, for example in emphasising the locality and specificity of biological explanations, this new mechanism also has serious limitations. The implicit analogy with machines suggests an inventory of fixed parts with more or less specific functions, and a more or less closed system. These suggestions are entirely inappropriate for representing most biological systems. Attempts to adjust earlier accounts of mechanisms to accommodate these limitations have tended to lead to an almost vacuous account of mechanism as little more than a synonym for explanation. In this talk I shall suggest that a better starting point is to develop an account of process that fully recognises the dynamic nature and openness of biological systems. This is part of a broader project to reassess the legacy of atomism from the Scientific Revolution, and develop an alternative process-centred ontology better suited to twenty-first century science.
Additional sponsorship comes from: HPLMS Working Group, Department of Philosophy