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The New Mechanical Philosophy$
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Stuart Glennan

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198779711

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198779711.001.0001

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(p.17) 2 Mechanisms
The New Mechanical Philosophy

Stuart Glennan

Oxford University Press

This chapter introduces the account of minimal mechanism, according to which a mechanism consists of a set of parts or entities whose activities and interactions are organized so as to be responsible for some phenomenon. The concepts appealed to in this account—phenomena, entities, activities, organization—are elaborated, and the relation of minimal mechanism to other accounts is explored. Mechanisms are shown to be compounds that are organized in two dimensions, the horizontal dimension of causal dependence and a vertical or part-whole dimension called mechanistic constitution. I argue that almost all natural and social phenomena depend upon mechanisms so characterized, and that this fact leads to a new mechanical ontology, which alters the way we should think about traditional metaphysical categories like substances, processes, properties, dispositions, causes, and laws of nature.

Keywords:   minimal mechanism, ontology, phenomena, entity, activity, organization, process

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