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Egenis · Events

Mechanism and causation workshop

Workshop   23.04.2013






Professor Stuart Glennan, Butler University and KLI, Dr Federica Russo (Kent), Dr Phyllis Illari (UCL), Dr Alexander Bird (Bristol) Chair: Professor John Dupré

Organised by

Egenis with support from CSSIS


Egenis,Byrne House,University of Exeter,St Germans Road,Exeter, EX4 4PJ

Event details

Mechanism has been a central philosophical theme in Western philosophy for the last 500 years, as scientific world views have gradually come to dominate philosophical thinking. The concept of mechanism has not, however, been a major topic of philosophical analysis until very recently, as standard accounts of scientific explanation in terms of covering laws, dating from the mid-twentieth century have come to seem increasingly irrelevant, especially to the life sciences. Various philosophers have proposed that the key to understanding scientific explanation is the delineation of mechanisms that have the capacity to produce the phenomena in need of explanation. At the same time, the complexity and dynamic character of the processes studied in much contemporary science require radical departures from traditional accounts of mechanism grounded historically in paradigms such as clockwork. For some, this has led to scepticism about the value of the continuing attention to the concept of a mechanism.

This workshop will explore the current state of this debate. It will start with a keynote talk by one of the central figures in the recent revival of interest in mechanism, Stuart Glennan. Other speakers will be prominent UK philosophers of science who have engaged with this topic, including Alexander Bird, Federica Russo, Phyllis Illari, and John Dupré. The workshop will offer ample opportunities for general discussion, and participants from a range of disciplines will provide a strong interdisciplinary flavour to the dialogue.


Tuesday 23 April

10:00-11.30am Stuart Glennan - 'Prospects for a mechanical theory of causation'

11.30-12.00 Tea/coffee break

12:00 - 1.00pm - John Dupré - 'Processes and Mechanisms'

1.00 -2.00pm Lunch

2:00 - 4:00 Phyllis Illari - 'Activities and Processes'

Alexander Bird (Title tbc)

4.00- 4.30 Tea/coffee break

4.30 - 6.00 General Discussion

Wednesday 24 April

10.00 - 11:00 Federica Russo - 'Information channels and biomarkers of disease'

11.00-12.00 Tea/coffee break

11.30 - 1.00 General discussion

1.00 Lunch

The workshop is free but places are limited. Please register your interest: egenis@exeter.ac.uk

Further details