Constraints on localization and decomposition as explanatory strategies in the biological sciences

Michael Silberstein, Elizabethtown College
Anthony Chemero, University of Cincinnati


Several articles have recently appeared arguing that there really are no viable alternatives to mechanistic explanation in the biological sciences (Kaplan and Bechtel; Kaplan and Craver). We argue that mechanistic explanation is defined by localization and decomposition. We argue further that systems neuroscience contains explanations that violate both localization and decomposition. We conclude that the mechanistic model of explanation needs to either stretch to now include explanations wherein localization or decomposition fail or acknowledge that there are counterexamples to mechanistic explanation in the biological sciences. © 2013 by the Philosophy of Science Association. All rights reserved.