Explaining the Brain: Mechanisms and the Mosaic Unity of Neuroscience

Explaining the Brain: Mechanisms and the Mosaic Unity of Neuroscience

Carl F. Craver

Language: English

Pages: 328

ISBN: 0199568227

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


What distinguishes good explanations in neuroscience from bad? Carl F. Craver constructs and defends standards for evaluating neuroscientific explanations that are grounded in a systematic view of what neuroscientific explanations are: descriptions of multilevel mechanisms. In developing this approach, he draws on a wide range of examples in the history of neuroscience (e.g. Hodgkin and Huxleys model of the action potential and LTP as a putative explanation for different kinds of memory), as well as recent philosophical work on the nature of scientific explanation. Readers in neuroscience, psychology, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of science will find much to provoke and stimulate them in this book.

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molecules. Consider how Samuel Barondes describes the relationship between molecules and mental illness: ¹² Lycan, the foremost advocate of a multilevel view of psychological explanation, objects to ‘‘two-levelism’’ in the philosophy of psychology: ‘‘Very generally put, my objection is that ‘software’/‘hardware’ talk encourages the idea of a bipartite Nature, divided into two levels, roughly the physicochemical and the (supervenient) ‘functional’ or higher-organizational—as against reality, which

model.¹⁸ According to this model, reduction is achieved by ¹⁸ Oppenheim and Putnam explicitly reject Nagel’s view of reduction in favor of the KemenyOppenheim model of reduction, which can be thought of as explanatory subsumption. 18 starting with neuroscience identifying the kind of terms in higher-level theories with those of lowerlevel theories and deriving the higher-level theories from the lower-level theories. On the assumption that different fields of science have their own theories,

interactions in mechanisms run from causes to effects (that is, stipulates (E2)), there is no way to rule out this set of causal relations as a mechanism linking the two effects of a common cause. Again, the buck of providing an account of causation is passed ever lower in a hierarchy of mechanisms until it is discharged by stipulation in fundamental causal relationships. Finally, consider the problem of distinguishing relevant from irrelevant causes (E4). Here is a possible description of the

by vibrating. He sought to understand how such vibrations could be distinguished from one another, how they could be stored in the ‘‘medullary substance,’’ and how the occurrence of one vibration might cause another to be produced (as demanded by his associationist view of memory). Just as the CL model requires that the explanandum sentence should be true, the mechanistic model requires that the explanandum phenomenon should exist. Slightly less obvious are the diverse taxonomic errors that one

appropriate to a level of nature, but because they can be used together to describe, predict, explain, and test aspects of spatial memory. This theory is composed of items drawn from multiple Oppenheim and Putnam-style levels. The influx of Ca2+ ions (atoms) through the NMDA receptor (molecules) initiates the sequence of events leading to LTP (cells), which is part of the mechanism for forming a spatial map in the CA1 region (organs). Map formation is part of the explanation for how the mouse

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