Constitutive relevance in interlevel experiments

Maria Serban, Sune Holm

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One reason for the popularity of Craver’s mutual manipulability (MM) account of constitutive relevance is that it seems to make good sense of the experimental practices and constitutive reasoning in the life sciences. Two recent papers (Baumgartner and Gebharter [2016]; Baumgartner and Casini [2017]) propose a theoretical alternative to (MM) in light of several important conceptual objections. Their alternative approach, the no de-coupling (NDC) account, conceives of constitution as a dependence relation that once postulated provides the best explanation of the impossibility of breaking the common cause coupling of a macro-level mechanism and its micro-level components. This entails an abductive view of constitutive inference. Proponents of the NDC or abductive account recognize that their discussion leaves open a big question concerning the practical dimension of the notion of constitutive relevance: Is it possible to faithfully reconstruct constitutional reasoning in science in terms of a failure to de-couple, via interlevel experiments, phenomena from their mechanistic constituents? Focusing on the field of memory and long-term potential (LTP) research, this article argues that the abductive account provides a more adequate description of interlevel experiments in neuroscience. We also suggest that the account highlights some significant practical recommendations of how to interpret the findings of interlevel experiments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)697–725
Number of pages29
JournalBritish Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Issue number2
Early online date10 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

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