On the impossibility of the ontic view of mechanistic explanations
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This thesis addresses the ongoing dispute among the New Mechanists on the epistemic and ontic conceptions of mechanistic explanations. The ontic view stipulates that explanations should be based on an identity relation that holds between mechanisms and explanations whereas the epistemic view suggests that explanations should go through a representational medium containing mental and external (scientific) representations to be qualified as explanations. I will articulate the presuppositions of the ontic view which will be followed by demonstrating ways in which the identity claim does not hold due to the distinctive features of actual mechanisms and their explanations. I argue that mechanisms are concrete structures which are based on actual causally productive activities whereas explanations are epistemically and pragmatically abstract items which cite relevant non-occurrences including absences and preventions. In addition, I challenge the weak onticism which is the idea that the ontic view can survive without the identity claim. It is based on the ontic relation that connects explanations to the actual world while their relata are still explanations that is to say that explanations are representations which represent the ontic features of mechanisms. Lastly, I propose arguments to save realism about explanations to show how scientific practice of modelling is compatible with representational-subsumption view of explanations.
Ontic view of scientific explanations