Monday, April 03, 2006

Mechanism and Biological Explanation seminar

I doubt I can make it to this talk at Duke University on Friday, though I really, really, want to. "Cyclic organization" is my middle name, after all.... Perhaps I will be able to figure out the way to go. If it was only later in the evening instead of 3:30 (the time when I am picking the kids from school).
Bill Bechtel will be giving a talk titled "Mechanism and Biological Explanation" in the Philosophy Department next Friday, April 7, at 3:30 p.m., Room 202 West Duke Bldg. All are welcome to attend.

William Bechtel
Department of Philosophy
Science Studies Program and Interdisciplinary Program on Cognitive Science
University of California, San Diego

Explanations in biology do not fit traditional philosophical models of explanation via subsumption under laws and a number of philosophers have recently begun to articulate a conception of mechanistic explanation more adequate to biology. I will provide a brief overview of the emerging treatment of mechanisms and mechanistic explanation. These accounts, however, are insufficiently biological in that they do not attend to the distinctive forms of organization required in biological organisms. Biological organisms are autonomous systems which must be able to recruit matter and energy from their environment and deploy them to develop and repair themselves. Of particular importance in such systems are cyclic patterns of organization. I will explore the importance of cyclic organization for maintaining autonomy and its implications for thinking about biological mechanisms.

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