Reconciling Ontic and Epistemic Constraints on Mechanistic Explanation, Epistemically

TitleReconciling Ontic and Epistemic Constraints on Mechanistic Explanation, Epistemically
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
Authorsvan Eck, D
Date PublishedAug

In this paper I address the current debate on ontic versus epistemic conceptualizations of mechanistic explanation in the mechanisms literature. Illari recently argued that good explanations are subject to both ontic and epistemic constraints: they must describe mechanisms in the world (ontic aim) in such fashion that they provide understanding of their workings (epistemic aim). Elaborating upon Illari’s ‘integration’ account, I argue that causal role function discovery of mechanisms and their components is an epistemic prerequisite for achieving these two aims. This analysis extends Illari’s account in important ways, putting more pressure on ontic readings of mechanistic explanation and providing an answer to the question how ontic and epistemic constraints on mechanistic explanation are related. I argue these point in terms of cases on memory research drawn from neuroscience and research on extinct neurogenetic mechanisms from early nervous systems biology.

Citation Keyvanreconciling