Ideas from 'Can Mechanisms Replace Laws of Nature?' by Bert Leuridan [2010], by Theme Structure

[found in 'Philosophy of Science' (ed/tr -) [- ,]].

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14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / e. Lawlike explanations
Generalisations must be invariant to explain anything
                        Full Idea: A generalisation is explanatory if and only if it is invariant.
                        From: Bert Leuridan (Can Mechanisms Replace Laws of Nature? [2010], 4)
                        A reaction: [He cites Jim Woodward 2003] I dislike the idea that generalisations and regularities explain anything at all, but this rule sounds like a bare minimum for being taken seriously in the space of explanations.
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / h. Explanations by function
Biological functions are explained by disposition, or by causal role
                        Full Idea: The main alternative to the dispositional theory of biological functions (which confer a survival-enhancing propensity) is the etiological theory (effects are functions if they play a role in the causal history of that very component).
                        From: Bert Leuridan (Can Mechanisms Replace Laws of Nature? [2010], 3)
                        A reaction: [Bigelow/Pargetter 1987 for the first, Mitchell 2003 for the second] The second one sounds a bit circular, but on the whole a I prefer causal explanations to dispositional explanations.
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / i. Explanations by mechanism
Mechanisms are ontologically dependent on regularities
                        Full Idea: Mechanisms are ontologically dependent on the existence of regularities.
                        From: Bert Leuridan (Can Mechanisms Replace Laws of Nature? [2010], 3)
                        A reaction: This seems to be the Humean rearguard action in favour of the regularity account of laws. Wrong, but a nice paper. This point shows why only powers (despite their vagueness!) are the only candidate for the bottom level of explanation.
We can show that regularities and pragmatic laws are more basic than mechanisms
                        Full Idea: Summary: mechanisms depend on regularities, there may be regularities without mechanisms, models of mechanisms must incorporate pragmatic laws, and pragmatic laws do not depend epistemologically on mechanistic models.
                        From: Bert Leuridan (Can Mechanisms Replace Laws of Nature? [2010], 1)
                        A reaction: See Idea 14382 for 'pragmatic' laws. I'm quite keen on mechanisms, so this is an arrow close to the heart, but at this point I say that my ultimate allegiance is to powers, not to mechanisms.
Mechanisms can't explain on their own, as their models rest on pragmatic regularities
                        Full Idea: To model a mechanism one must incorporate pragmatic laws. ...As valuable as the concept of mechanism and mechanistic explanation are, they cannot replace regularities nor undermine their relevance for scientific explanation.
                        From: Bert Leuridan (Can Mechanisms Replace Laws of Nature? [2010], 1)
                        A reaction: [See Idea 12786 for 'pragmatic laws'] I just don't see how the observation of a regularity is any sort of explanation. I just take a regularity to be something interesting which needs to be explained.
Mechanisms must produce macro-level regularities, but that needs micro-level regularities
                        Full Idea: Nothing can count as a mechanism unless it produces some macro-level regular behaviour. To produce macro-level regular behaviour, it has to rely on micro-level regularities.
                        From: Bert Leuridan (Can Mechanisms Replace Laws of Nature? [2010], 5)
                        A reaction: This is the core of Leuridan's argument that regularities are more basic than mechanisms. It doesn't follow, though, that the more basic a thing is the more explanatory work it can do. I say mechanisms explain more than low-level regularities do.
14. Science / D. Explanation / 3. Best Explanation / b. Ultimate explanation
There is nothing wrong with an infinite regress of mechanisms and regularities
                        Full Idea: I see nothing metaphysically wrong in an infinite ontological regress of mechanisms and regularities.
                        From: Bert Leuridan (Can Mechanisms Replace Laws of Nature? [2010], 5)
                        A reaction: This is a pretty unusual view, and I can't accept it. My revulsion at this regress is precisely the reason why I believe in powers, as the bottom level of explanation.
26. Natural Theory / A. Heart of Nature / 3. Natural Function
Rather than dispositions, functions may be the element that brought a thing into existence
                        Full Idea: The dispositional theory of biological functions is not unquestioned. The main alternative is the etiological theory: a component's effect is a function of that component if it has played an essential role in the causal history of its existence.
                        From: Bert Leuridan (Can Mechanisms Replace Laws of Nature? [2010], 3)
                        A reaction: [He cites S.D. Mitchell 2003] Presumably this account is meant to fit into a theory of evolution in biology. The obvious problem is where something comes into existence for one reason, and then acquires a new function (such as piano-playing).
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 3. Laws and Generalities
Pragmatic laws allow prediction and explanation, to the extent that reality is stable
                        Full Idea: A generalization is a 'pragmatic law' if it allows of prediction, explanation and manipulation, even if it fails to satisfy the traditional criteria. To this end, it should describe a stable regularity, but not necessarily a universal and necessary one.
                        From: Bert Leuridan (Can Mechanisms Replace Laws of Nature? [2010], 1)
                        A reaction: I am tempted to say of this that all laws are pragmatic, given that it is rather hard to know whether reality is stable. The universal laws consist of saying that IF reality stays stable in certain ways, certain outcomes will ensue necessarily.
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 4. Regularities / a. Regularity theory
Strict regularities are rarely discovered in life sciences
                        Full Idea: Strict regularities are rarely if ever discovered in the life sciences.
                        From: Bert Leuridan (Can Mechanisms Replace Laws of Nature? [2010], 2)
                        A reaction: This is elementary once it is pointed out, but too much philosophy have science has aimed at the model provided by the equations of fundamental physics. Science is a broad church, to employ an entertaining metaphor.
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 12. Against Laws of Nature
A 'law of nature' is just a regularity, not some entity that causes the regularity
                        Full Idea: By 'law of nature' or 'natural law' I mean a generalization describing a regularity, not some metaphysical entity that produces or is responsible for that regularity.
                        From: Bert Leuridan (Can Mechanisms Replace Laws of Nature? [2010], 1 n1)
                        A reaction: I take the second version to be a relic of a religious world view, and having no place in a naturalistic metaphysic. The regularity view is then the only player in the field, and the question is, can we do more? Can't we explain regularities?