William Bechtel's research while affiliated with University of California, San Diego and other places

Publications (30)

Article
Full-text available
Explanations of biological phenomena such as cell division, protein synthesis or circadian rhythms commonly take the form of models of the responsible mechanisms. Recently philosophers of science have attempted to analyze this practice, presenting mechanisms as organized collections of parts performing operations that together produce the phenomeno...
Article
Network representations are flat while mechanisms are organized into a hierarchy of levels, suggesting that the two are fundamentally opposed. I challenge this opposition by focusing on two aspects of the ways in which large-scale networks constructed from high-throughput data are analysed in systems biology: identifying clusters of nodes that oper...
Chapter
Levels of Analysis in Psychopathology - edited by Kenneth S. Kendler April 2020
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Levels of Analysis in Psychopathology - edited by Kenneth S. Kendler April 2020
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Research on diseases such as cancer reveals that primary mechanisms, which have been the focus of study by the new mechanists in philosophy of science, are often subject to control by other mechanisms. Cancer cells employ the same primary mechanisms as healthy cells, but control them differently. I use cancer research to highlight just how widespre...
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Diagrams figure prominently in human reasoning, especially in science. Cognitive science research has provided important insights into the inferences afforded by diagrams and revealed differences in the reasoning made possible by physically instantiated diagrams and merely imagined ones. In scientific practice, diagrams figure prominently both in t...
Article
Systems biology provides alternatives to the strategies to developing mechanistic explanations traditionally pursued in cell and molecular biology and much discussed in accounts of mechanistic explanation. Rather than starting by identifying a mechanism for a given phenomenon and decomposing it, systems biologists often start by developing cell-wid...
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Areas of biology such as cell and molecular biology have been dominated by research directed at constructing mechanistic explanations that identify parts and operations that when organized appropriately are responsible for the various phenomena they investigate. Increasingly the mechanisms hypothesized involve non-sequential organization of non-lin...
Article
Full-text available
This paper reviews some of the compelling evidence of disrupted circadian rhythms in individuals with mood disorders (major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and bipolar disorder) and that treatments such as bright light, designed to alter circadian rhythms, are effective in treating these disorders. Neurotransmitters in brain regio...
Article
This paper considers two objections to explanations that appeal to mechanisms to explain biological phenomena. Marom argues that the time-scale on which many phenomena occur is scale-free. There is also reason to suspect that the network of interacting entities is scale-free. The result is that mechanisms do not have well-delineated boundaries in n...
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Are all three of Marr's levels needed? Should they be kept distinct? We argue for the distinct contributions and methodologies of each level of analysis. It is important to maintain them because they provide three different perspectives required to understand mechanisms, especially information-processing mechanisms. The computational perspective pr...
Chapter
Mechanistic explanations appeal to the parts, operations, and organizations of mechanisms to explain the phenomena for which they are responsible. Scientists have developed accounts of myriads of mechanisms thought to be operative in biology, each involving distinctive parts and operations organized in idiosyncratic ways. The focus on specific mech...
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A key component of scientific inquiry, especially inquiry devoted to developing mechanistic explanations, is delineating the phenomenon to be explained. The task of delineating phenomena, however, has not been sufficiently analyzed, even by the new mechanistic philosophers of science. We contend that Marr’s characterization of what he called the co...
Article
While neuroscientists often characterize brain activity as representational, many philosophers have construed these accounts as just theorists’ glosses on the mechanism. Moreover, philosophical discussions commonly focus on finished accounts of explanation, not research in progress. I adopt a different perspective, considering how characterizations...
Article
Most proposals of cognitive architectures in cognitive science and accounts of brain processes in neuroscience construe the mind/brain as reactive: processing is initiated by a stimulus and terminates in a response to it. But there is growing evidence that brains are endogenously active: oscillations in electrochemical activity at multiple frequenc...
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Whereas the challenge for traditional mechanistic science was to identify parts and operations, the current challenge in many fields of biology is to understand how the many parts of mechanisms are organized in networks and their operations coordinated across these networks. This paper explores how tools from graph theory are enabling analysis of o...
Chapter
In the 1990s circadian rhythm researchers made enormous progress in identifying the components and operations within the responsible mechanism in various species using the tools of molecular biology. In the past decade it has proven essential to supplement these with the tools of systems biology both to identify additional components but especially...
Article
In many fields of biology, researchers explain a phenomenon by characterizing the responsible mechanism. This requires identifying the candidate mechanism, decomposing it into its parts and operations, recomposing it so as to understand how it is organized and its operations orchestrated to generate the phenomenon, and situating it in its environme...
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The project of referring to localized cognitive operations in the brain has a long history and many impressive successes. It is a core element in the practice of giving mechanistic explanations of mental abilities. But it has also been challenged by prominent critics. One of the critics' claims is that brain regions are not specialized for specific...
Article
After briefly flourishing as a characterization of the relation between mind and brain in the 1950s (Place, 1956; Smart, 1959), the type identity theory was eclipsed for the rest of the century, supplanted by functionalism. Perhaps the most influential argument against identity theory and for functionalism was the claim that mental processes are mu...
Chapter
Full-text available
Due to the wide array of phenomena that are of interest to them, psychologists offer highly diverse and heterogeneous types of explanations. Initially, this suggests that the question "What is psychological explanation?" has no single answer. To provide appreciation of this diversity, we begin by noting some of the more common types of explanations...
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The chapter discusses how an organization is far more critical than often recognized in mechanistic science and philosophical accounts of mechanistic explanation. Vitalists and holists play an important function when they remind mechanists of the shortfalls of the mechanistic accounts on offer. Ideas such as negative feedback, self-organizing posit...
Article
Mechanistic explanation is the dominant approach to explanation in the life sciences, but it has been challenged as incompatible with a conception of humans as agents whose capacity for self-direction endows them with freedom and dignity. We argue that the mechanical philosophy, properly construed, has sufficient resources to explain how such chara...
Conference Paper
The lean, premixed DLN2.5H combustion system was designed to deliver low NOx emissions from 50% to 100% load in both the Frame 7H (60 Hz) and Frame 9H (50 Hz) heavy-duty industrial gas turbines. The H machines employ steam cooling in the gas turbine, a 23:1 pressure ratio, and are fired at 1440 C (2600 F) to deliver over-all thermal efficiency for...
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The central focus in debates over broad evolutionary psychology is whether mental abilities can be understood as adaptive functions (Davies, 1996, p. 446). Narrow evolutionary psychology1 further closely couples the claim that mental abilities are adaptive to a commitment to modularity of mental functions. This linkage is presented as quite direct—...
Article
A diffusion flame nozzle gas tip is provided to convert a dual fuel nozzle to a gas only nozzle. The nozle tip diverts compressor discharge air from the passage feeding the diffusion nozzle air swirl vanes to a region vacated by removal of the dual fuel components, so that the diverted compressor discharge air can flow to and through effusion holes...
Article
A method of cooling a transition duct end frame in a gas turbine includes the steps of a) directing cooling air into the end frame from a region external of the transition duct and the impingement cooling sleeve; and b) redirecting the cooling air from the end frame into the annulus between the transition duct and the impingement cooling sleeve.
Article
Although a reactive framework has long been dominant in cognitive science and neuroscience, an alternative framework emphasizing dynamics and endogenous activity has recently gained prominence. We review some of the evidence for en-dogenous activity and consider the implications not only for understanding cognition but also for accounts of explanat...

Citations

... Nowadays there are two very different, in fact, incompatible attitudes towards this notion of levels in the mechanistic literature. One approach, advocated by what I will call the anti-reductionist wing of mechanists, takes levels very seriously, ascribes ontological weight to them and uses them to argue for the strong claim that entities at higher levels are not just distinct from the ones at lower levels but are also causally autonomous relative to them (Bechtel, 2009(Bechtel, , 2017a(Bechtel, , 2017b(Bechtel, , 2017c(Bechtel, , 2018(Bechtel, , 2019Krickel, 2018;Winning & Bechtel, 2018. The other approach, advocated by the reductionist wing, treats level-talk metaphorically claiming that characterising a higher level entity and characterising the corresponding overall activity of some lower level entities are only different descriptions of the same thing (Craver, 2015(Craver, , 2018Glennan, 2010Glennan, , 2017Povich & Craver, 2018). ...
... They carry out these activities of construction and repair using a variety of mechanisms that perform physiological and behavioural activities. These basic mechanisms, which we refer to as production mechanisms [9,10], extract and use energy, break down and synthesize materials, move organisms through space, enable division or replication of the organism, etc. The successful operation of these mechanisms is required since otherwise the organism would not be able to maintain its identity distinct from its environment. ...
... It's possible to develop explanations that are not based on hierarchical levels. Bechtel (11), for instance, develops a mechanist view that favors a heterarchical set of neural control mechanisms, rejecting a hierarchical organization in favor of lateral constraints within a network that "does not impose any requirement of hierarchical organization" [(11), p. 31]. Likewise, Woodward (12), commenting on Eronen's "levels eliminativism"-"the thought that we would be better off avoiding level talk entirely"-suggests it is motivated by the fact that researchers operate with different conceptions of levels without always distinguishing them. ...
... In order to clarify this central tenet, I will use a conceptual toolkit that is motivated by graph representations as utilised in network science. Interestinglyand importantly from the perspective of comparability (see Sect. 5)-recent attempts to defend an ontologically serious multi-level view of mechanisms also rely on the same conceptual toolkit (Bechtel, 2017a(Bechtel, , 2017b(Bechtel, , 2017c(Bechtel, , 2018(Bechtel, , 2019(Bechtel, , 2020. So in what follows, the term unit will be used to refer to entities that causally interact with each other, whereas the term module will be used to refer to specific configurations of these interacting units (clusters in network science jargon) with significantly higher density of connections between the units forming the module than to units outside of the module. ...
... Nowadays there are two very different, in fact, incompatible attitudes towards this notion of levels in the mechanistic literature. One approach, advocated by what I will call the anti-reductionist wing of mechanists, takes levels very seriously, ascribes ontological weight to them and uses them to argue for the strong claim that entities at higher levels are not just distinct from the ones at lower levels but are also causally autonomous relative to them (Bechtel, 2009(Bechtel, , 2017a(Bechtel, , 2017b(Bechtel, , 2017c(Bechtel, , 2018(Bechtel, , 2019Krickel, 2018;Winning & Bechtel, 2018. The other approach, advocated by the reductionist wing, treats level-talk metaphorically claiming that characterising a higher level entity and characterising the corresponding overall activity of some lower level entities are only different descriptions of the same thing (Craver, 2015(Craver, , 2018Glennan, 2010Glennan, , 2017Povich & Craver, 2018). ...
... Representations such asFigure 5result from applying numerous analytical strategies, including annotating nodes with information that is known about the corresponding protein. The goal is to develop a representation that can then serve as a heuristic in creating new mechanistic understanding of the system being represented(Bechtel, 2019). ...
... Incidentally, this timekeeping proposal bears similarities to observations that were made by physicists studying biological systems (Adair, 2002;Fröhlich, 1968), indicating that the focus on vibrational behaviour has a clear lineage in biophysics. I should emphasise that this proposal is not related to the circadian rhythm (discussed earlier relating to (Bechtel, 2017)), which pertains to the 24-hour timekeeping that happens at an organism level and regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Cell membrane vibrations concern an individual cell, and at a time regime that is orders of magnitude faster than one second. ...
... Vankov and Kokinov, 2011). See additional work on diagrams in, e.g., Hegarty et al. (2003), Gooding (2006), Craver and Darden (2013), Tversky (2015), Bechtel (2017), and Chandrasekharan and Nersessian (2017). ...
... Several philosophical commentators have argued that network neuroscience delivers mechanistic explanations (see e.g. Bechtel 2015;Craver 2016;Levy and Bechtel 2013;Miłkowski 2016;Zednik 2014Zednik , 2015. In so doing, they focus mostly on the contribution of network models, graphical representations of networks in biological brains. ...
... 294,295 In this context, it is noteworthy that the circadian system has been presented as an example of the new approach to mechanistic explanation in biology potentially providing the robust theoretical grounding that could inform the integrative synthesis of currently disparate findings. 296,297 Beyond providing philosophical rigor, efforts toward a cohesive testable multi-level synthesis of circadian regulation of mood would generate new questions, methodological challenges, and clinically relevant insights. ...