LIRa session: Dingmar van Eck

Speaker: Dingmar van Eck (ILLC, University of Amsterdam)

Date and Time: Thursday, April 7th 2022, 16:30-18:00, Amsterdam time.

Venue: online. Recording available: click here.

Title: Explanation and Idealisation in Systems Biology

Abstract. This paper adds to the philosophical literature on mechanistic explanation by elaborating two related explanatory functions of idealisation in mechanistic models. The first function involves explaining the presence of structural/organizational features of mechanisms by reference to their role as difference-makers for performance requirements. The second involves tracking counterfactual dependency relations between features of mechanisms and features of mechanistic explanandum phenomena. To make these functions salient, we relate our discussion to an exemplar from systems biological research on the mechanism for countering heat shock — the heat shock response (HSR) system — in Escherichia coli (E.coli) bacteria. This research also reinforces a more general lesson: ontic constraint accounts in the literature on mechanistic explanation provide insufficiently informative normative appraisals of mechanistic models. We close by outlining an alternative view on the explanatory norms governing mechanistic representation.

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