Abstraction and the organization of mechanisms

Arnon Levy, William Bechte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Proponents of mechanistic explanation all acknowledge the importance of organization. But they have also tended to emphasize specificity with respect to parts and operations in mechanisms. We argue that in understanding one important mode of organization- patterns of causal connectivity-a successful explanatory strategy abstracts from the specifics of the mechanism and invokes tools such as those of graph theory to explain how mechanisms with a particular mode of connectivity will behave. We discuss the connection between organization, abstraction, and mechanistic explanation and illustrate our claims by looking at an example from recent research on so-called network motifs.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)241-261
Number of pages21
JournalPhilosophy of Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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