Synopses & Reviews
Neuroscientists investigate the mechanisms of spatial memory. Molecular biologists study the mechanisms of protein synthesis and the myriad mechanisms of gene regulation. Ecologists study nutrient cycling mechanisms and their devastating imbalances in estuaries such as the Chesapeake Bay. In fact, much of biology and its history involves biologists constructing, evaluating, and revising their understanding of mechanisms.and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;With In Search of Mechanisms, Carl F. Craver and Lindley Darden offer both a descriptive and an instructional account of how biologists discover mechanisms. Drawing on examples from across the life sciences and through the centuries, Craver and Darden compile an impressive toolbox of strategies that biologists have used and will use again to reveal the mechanisms that produce, underlie, or maintain the phenomena characteristic of living things. They discuss the questions that figure in the search for mechanisms, characterizing the experimental, observational, and conceptual considerations used to answer them, all the while providing examples from the history of biology to highlight the kinds of evidence and reasoning strategies employed to assess mechanisms. At a deeper level, Craver and Darden pose a systematic view of what biology is, of how biology makes progress, of how biological discoveries are and might be made, and of why knowledge of biological mechanisms is important for the future of the human species.
"There have been pockets of activity, I would say, but few systematic accounts that explore the field of neuroscience as a whole. Carl Craver's book Explaining the Brain: Mechanisms and the Mosaic Unity of Neuroscience represents this new direction, and an excellent addition to a burgeoning field it is.... Explaining the Brain is timely, well-written, and meticulously argued.... I highly recommend this text to anyone with any interest in how theories in neuroscience are constructed.... As one of the first in-depth treatments of theory-construction in neuroscience, Craver's book sets the bar high. It will be difficult indeed to surpass this work in the near future."-Valerie Gray Hardcastle, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"Overall, Explaining the Brain is a complete read of thoughtful revelations on the inner workings of neuroscience intermixed with a few temperate insinuations on how its complex and ostensibly unsystematic workings may be unified. In summary, Craver's text is a read which is intense and...undeniably enlightening."--Metpsychology Online Reviews
"[Craver and Darden] succeed admirably in their main explanatory purpose--to illuminate for a larger public, the workings of the engine of scientific discovery."
"Very few books truly integrate history and philosophy of science; this is one of them. Its goals are philosophical, but the rich tapestry of history of science that it brings to bear in, and around, the quest to understand mechanisms is impressive. . . . It will be a valuable addition to biology, history, and philosophy library collections. Highly recommended."
"[A] compact, pathbreaking book."
"It is a pleasure to read how investigators proceed from Howand#8230;possibly? to Howand#8230;actually, from rough black box sketches on napkins to 'glass boxes' whose inner workings are fully revealedand#8230;. [A] readable, recommended book."
"A highly readable and disciplinarily diverse compendium of the varieties of mechanisms encountered in biological systems and the means by which they are studied. For this reason, and the fact that much of the substantial earlier material on this subject was written by the two authors, Carl Craver and Lindley Darden, individually and jointly, it is likely to be the classic reference in this area for many years. . . . This is a needed work on a critical biological subject, and it is implemented in a wide-ranging and accessible fashion."
andldquo;Carl F. Craver and Lindley Darden eloquently describe the discovery of mechanisms and reasoning about them and show how mechanisms provide an integrative way of understanding the unity of biology.and#160;This book ranges across many areas of biology and is highly readable, withand#160;rich examples and a minimum of philosophical jargon.and#160;It substantially advances the philosophy and history of science and can seriously help biologists to understand their own work.andrdquo;
andldquo;Pioneers in the new philosophy of science, Carl F. Craver and Lindley Darden have produced the first systematic yet highly accessible analysis of what mechanisms are and how they figure in explanations, especially in the biological sciences. Loaded with clear examples, the authors provide a richly illustrated account of how scientists discover and investigate mechanisms and revise their accounts of them over time. The authors show in a compelling manner how research on mechanisms is often the focus of research integrating multiple fields of biology. Anyone from a beginning undergraduate to a professional biologist or philosopher will find his or her understanding of biology enriched by this book.andrdquo;
andquot;A particularly refreshing aspect of Craver and Dardenandrsquo;s account is that it does not advocate for one particular point of view while criticizing the arguments of others. Instead, the different aspects of mechanistic research (and thus its complexity and diversity) are laid out, well illustrated by a variety of examples from such different biological fields as molecular genetics, physiology, and neuroscience, oftenandmdash;though not exclusivelyandmdash;from the twentieth century.andquot;
andquot;Craver and Darden have played a key role in shifting the attention of philosophers to mechanisms over the last decade. The literature on mechanisms in philosophy of science is now vast and for good reason: If we want to understand how the majority of biological research is done today, we have to understand how scientists reason about mechanisms. . . . In Search of Mechanisms provides a unique and accessible contribution to both studies of science and science itself.andquot;
andquot;A well-written and well-thought-out book that goes into the thought processes of scientists and how they work. Scientists may use a different vocabulary to describe how they work, but they will benefit from the insights of Craver and Darden as they explore how scientists in anatomy, physiology, genetics, developmental biology, and neuroscience worked out some of the major findings of the 20th century.andquot;
What distinguishes good explanations in neuroscience from bad? Carl F. Craver constructs and defends standards for evaluating neuroscientific explanations that are grounded in a systematic view of what neuroscientific explanations are: descriptions of multilevel mechanisms. In developing this approach, he draws on a wide range of examples in the history of neuroscience (e.g. Hodgkin and Huxleys model of the action potential and LTP as a putative explanation for different kinds of memory), as well as recent philosophical work on the nature of scientific explanation. Readers in neuroscience, psychology, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of science will find much to provoke and stimulate them in this book.
About the Author
Carl F. Craver is professor in the Department of Philosophy and the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program at Washington University in St. Louis.and#160;He lives in St. Louis, MO.Lindley Darden is professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Maryland, College Park. She lives in Greenbelt, MD.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Introduction: Starting With Neuroscience
2. Explanations in Neuroscience Describe Mechanisms.
3. Explanations in Neuroscience are Multilevel
4. Explanations in Neuroscience Integrate Multiple Fields
5. Criteria of Adequacy for an Account of Explanation
Chapter 2. Explanation and Causal Relevance
2. How Calcium Explains Neurotransmitter Release
3. Explanation and Representation
4. The Covering-Law Model
5. The Unification Model
6. But What About the Hodgkin and Huxley Model?
Chapter 3. Causal Relevance and Manipulation
2. The Mechanism of Long-Term Potentiation
3. Causation as Transmission
3.1. Transmission and Causal Relevance
3.2. Omission and Prevention
4. Causation and Mechanical Connection
5. Manipulation and Causation
5.1. Ideal Interventions
5.2. Invariance, Fragility, and Contingency
5.3. Manipulation and Criteria for Explanation
5.4. Manipulation, Omission, and Prevention
Chapter 4. The Norms of Mechanistic Explanation
2. Two Normative Distinctions
3. Explaining the Action Potential
4. The Explanandum Phenomenon
8. Constitutive Relevance
8.1. Relevance and the Boundaries of Mechanisms
8.2. Interlevel Experiments and Constitutive Relevance
8.21. Interference Experiments
8.22. Stimulation Experiments
8.23. Activation Experiments
8.3. Constitutive Relevance as Mutual Manipulability
Chapter 5. A Field-Guide to Levels
2. Levels of Spatial Memory
3. A Field-Guide to Levels
3.1. Levels of Science (Units and Products)
3.2. Levels of Nature
3.21. Causal Levels (Processing and Control)
3.22. Levels of Size
3.23. Levels of Composition
3.231. Levels of Mereology
3.232. Levels of Aggregativity
3.233. Levels of Mere Material/Spatial Containment
3.3. Levels of Mechanisms
Chapter 6 Nonfundamental Explanation
2. Causal Relevance and Making a Difference
3. Contrasts and Switch-Points
4. Causal Powers at Higher Levels of Mechanisms
5. Causal Relevance among Realized Properties
Chapter 7. The Mosaic Unity of Neuroscience
2. Reduction and the History of Neuroscience
2.1. LTP's Origins: Not a Top-Down Search but Intralevel Integration
2.2. The Mechanistic Shift
2.3. Mechanism as a Working Hypothesis
3. Intralevel Integration and the Mosaic Unity of Neuroscience
3.1. The Space of Possible Mechanisms
3.2. Specific Constraints on the Space of Possible
3.21. Componency Constraints
3.22. Spatial Constraints
3.23. Temporal Constraints
3.24. Active Constraints
3.3. Reduction and the Intralevel Integration of Fields
4. Interlevel Integration and the Mosaic Unity of Neuroscience
4.1. What is Interlevel Integration?
4.2. Constraints on Interlevel Integration
4.21. Accommodative Constraints
4.22. Spatial and Temporal Interlevel Constraints
4.23. Interlevel Manipulability Constraints
4.3. Mosaic Interlevel Integration
5. Conclusion: The Epistemic Function of the Mosaic Unity of Neuroscience