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Intervening into mechanisms: Prospects and challenges

Article published in Wiley Philosophy Compass

2018.08.24 | Anne-Mette Pedersen


In contemporary philosophy of science, the consensus view seems to be that scientific explanations describe mechanisms responsible for the phenomena to be explained. Two kinds of explanatory relevance figure in mechanistic accounts of explanation: causal (etiological) and constitutive. Following prominent accounts, it seems natural to analyze both these relations in terms of systematic interventions into some factor X with respect to another factor Y. However, such interventions are tailored to uncover causal relations only. Construing the constitutive relationship between parts and wholes in terms of interventions thus raises metaphysical, conceptual, and epistemological questions. We here review the barriers that intervention‐based inquiry into mechanisms encounters and consider some solutions.


Lena Kästner and Lise Marie Andersen (2018): Intervening into mechanisms: Prospects and challenges. Wiley Philosophy Compass.



Assistant Professor Lise Marie Andersen, School of Culture and Society, Dept. of Philosophy