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Physical ComputationA Mechanistic Account$
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Gualtiero Piccinini

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199658855

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199658855.001.0001

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From Functional Analysis to Mechanistic Explanation

From Functional Analysis to Mechanistic Explanation

(p.74) 5 From Functional Analysis to Mechanistic Explanation
Physical Computation

Gualtiero Piccinini

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that traditional accounts of functional analysis suffer from two problems: they explicate functional analysis in terms of computation (whereas it should be the other way around) and they mistakenly assume that functional analysis is distinct and autonomous from mechanistic explanation. How functional analysis and computational explanation end up being conflated is discussed and the two are disentangled. The three main types of functional analysis are discussed. It is argued that functional analyses are sketches of mechanisms, in which some structural aspects of a mechanistic explanation are omitted. Once the missing aspects are filled in, a functional analysis turns into a full-blown mechanistic explanation. By this process, functional analyses are seamlessly integrated with multilevel mechanistic explanations.

Keywords:   functional analysis, mechanistic explanation, mechanism sketch, multi-level explanations, autonomy, task analysis, boxology

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