What has been called the new mechanistic philosophy conceives of mechanisms as the main providers of biological explanation. We draw on the characterization of the p53 gene in molecular oncology, to show that explaining a biological phenomenon (cancer, in our case) implies instead a dynamic interaction between the mechanistic level—rendered at the appropriate degree of ontological resolution—and far more general explanatory tools that perform a fundamental epistemic role in the provision of biological explanations. We call such tools ‘‘explanatory frameworks’’. They are called frameworks to stress their higher level of generality with respect to bare mechanisms; on the other hand, they are called explanatory because, as we show in this paper, their importance in explaining biological phenomena is not secondary with respect to mechanisms. We illustrate how explanatory frameworks establish selective and local cri- teria of causal relevance that drive the search for, characterisation and usage of biological mechanisms. Furthermore, we show that explanatory frameworks allow for changes of scientific perspective on the causal relevance of mechanisms going beyond the account provided by the new mechanistic philosophy.

What mechanisms can't do : explanatory frameworks and the function of the p53 gene in molecular oncology / A. Blasimme, P. Maugeri, P. Germain. - In: STUDIES IN HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF BIOLOGICAL AND BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES. - ISSN 1369-8486. - 44:3(2013 Sep), pp. 374-384. [10.1016/j.shpsc.2013.02.001]

What mechanisms can't do : explanatory frameworks and the function of the p53 gene in molecular oncology

A. Blasimme
Primo
;
P. Maugeri
Secondo
;
P. Germain
Ultimo
2013

Abstract

What has been called the new mechanistic philosophy conceives of mechanisms as the main providers of biological explanation. We draw on the characterization of the p53 gene in molecular oncology, to show that explaining a biological phenomenon (cancer, in our case) implies instead a dynamic interaction between the mechanistic level—rendered at the appropriate degree of ontological resolution—and far more general explanatory tools that perform a fundamental epistemic role in the provision of biological explanations. We call such tools ‘‘explanatory frameworks’’. They are called frameworks to stress their higher level of generality with respect to bare mechanisms; on the other hand, they are called explanatory because, as we show in this paper, their importance in explaining biological phenomena is not secondary with respect to mechanisms. We illustrate how explanatory frameworks establish selective and local cri- teria of causal relevance that drive the search for, characterisation and usage of biological mechanisms. Furthermore, we show that explanatory frameworks allow for changes of scientific perspective on the causal relevance of mechanisms going beyond the account provided by the new mechanistic philosophy.
Mechanistic explanation ; Explanatory frameworks ; Discovery ; Molecular oncology ; Cancer ; p53
Settore M-FIL/02 - Logica e Filosofia della Scienza
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2434/224286
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