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AIPS-Conference "Mechanistic Explanations, Computability and Complex Systems"

The next conference of the International Academy for Philosophy of Science (AIPS) is organized by Prof. Dr. Dr. Brigitte Falkenburg (Dortmund) and Prof. Dr. Gregor Schiemann (Wuppertal).

It will take place in Dortmund (Germany) from October 27 (arrival) to October 30 (departure) 2016.


The theme is:

Mechanistic Explanations, Computability and Complex Systems


When it turned out that the "classical" DN model of explanation cannot cope with many fields of scientific research (starting with cases from physics), several other models of scientific explanation have been developed.

In a recent philosophical turn to scientific practice, mechanistic explanations have drawn much attention. They explain how certain properties of a whole stem from the causal activities of its parts. This kind of explanation is in particular employed in explanatory models of the behaviour of complex systems. It is widely spread in biology and neuroscience and hence was taken up mainly in the philosophy of biology and neurobiology.

In our 2016 conference, we want to broaden the scope of discussion. In recent philosophy of physics, mechanistic explanations have not yet drawn the attention, which they deserve. This is a surprising neglect, given that mechanistic explanations in other fields of research are modelled after the mechanical models of physics. Well-known examples of mechanical explanations are the kinetic theory of heat, and the constituent models of matter of atomic, nuclear, and particle physics. In the latter, however, the mechanisms on which the explanations rely on are no longer "mechanical" in a classical sense. Other kinds of mechanical explanations are typical of computer science. In all these cases, questions of computability and its limitations arise.

We hope that a broader philosophical discussion of mechanical explanations, ranging from physics and computer science to biology and cognitive neuroscience, will shed new light on the topics of emergence and reduction in complex systems.