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Clarifying the relation between mechanistic explanations and reductionism

The topic of mechanistic explanation in neuroscience has been a subject of recent discussion.

Clarifying the relation between mechanistic explanations and reductionism

There is a lot of interest in understanding what these explanations involve. Furthermore, there is disagreement about whether neurological mechanisms themselves should be viewed as reductionist in nature. In this paper I will explain how these two issues are related. I will, first, describe how mechanisms support a form of antireductionism. This is because the mechanisms that exist should be seen as involving part-whole relations, where the behavior of a whole is more than the sum of its parts. After this, I will consider mechanistic explanations and how they can be understood. While some people think the explanations concern existing entities in the world, I will argue that we can understand the explanations by viewing them in terms of arguments. Despite the fact that it is possible to understand mechanistic explanations in this manner, the antireductionist point remains.

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