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Explaining the Brain$
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Carl F. Craver

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199299317

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199299317.001.0001

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Explanation and Causal Relevance

Explanation and Causal Relevance

(p.21) 2 Explanation and Causal Relevance
Explaining the Brain

Carl F. Craver (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter defends a causal-mechanical view of explanation in neuroscience by arguing against three other philosophical accounts of scientific explanation: Paul Churchland's representational account, Carl Hempel's covering-law (CL) model, and Philip Kitcher's unification model. Each of these models struggles to recover commonly accepted constraints on explanations, constraints that are easily satisfied by the causal-mechanical view. Two examples are considered to illustrate this point: the explanation of neurotransmitter release and the explanation of the action potential. The first example reveals several common constraints on acceptable explanations. The second example shows that even the most compelling example of a covering-law explanation in neuroscience is, in fact, more accurately understood as an example of a causal-mechanical explanation.

Keywords:   neuroscience, scientific explanation, Paul Churchland, Carl Hempel, Philip Kitcher, representation, covering-law model, unification model

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