Carl Craver: Ontic Basis of Network Explanation
1 April 2016, 11:30 am - 1:00 pm EDT
Network models are increasingly used across the sciences to describe complex relations among a number of individual actors. Philosophers enamored of this modeling approach claim to find in it evidence for non-causal, distinctively mathematical, or non-decompositional explanations. Using examples from contemporary resting state fMRI research, I show that this philosophical work in general misunderstands what network models do, how they are applied to real systems, and, most generally, what a philosophical theory of explanation is supposed to accomplish. I will argue that stock examples of network explanations in the philosophical literature all show tell-tale signs of causal (or otherwise ontic) asymmetry. These examples point the way to a more accurate account of the distinction between mathematical and causal explanation (than offered by, e.g., Lange or Colyvan) and hopefully to a deeper appreciation of what the ontic conception of scientific explanation asserts and how it differs from epistemic and psychologicstic models.
Carl Craver is a philosopher of neuroscience with side interests in the history and philosophy of biology, general philosophy of science, metaphysics, and moral psychology. His 2007 book, Explaining the Brain, develops a framework for thinking about the norms of scientific explanation in physiological sciences such as neuroscience. His forthcoming book (with Lindley Darden), Searching for Mechanisms: Discoveries Across the Life Sciences, develops a mechanistic view of discovery in biology. He is working (with Shayna Rosenbaum, York University) to study deficits in agency and moral reasoning in people with amnesia. Other research interests include general work on the nature of scientific explanation, the norms of progress for experimental instruments and techniques, and the difference between modeler’s and maker’s knowledge of the brain.
Read more about Carl Craver.
This event was co-sponsored with Western’s Brain And Mind Institute.