What kind of mechanism for Cartesian physics?

Sophie Roux


Our conception of what is a mechanism and of what its function is in biological explanations has been renewed in the last decade (Machamer, Darden and Craver 2000, Bechtel and Abrahamsen 2005, Nicholson 2012). It remains however to determine what this renewal consists in, and what its disciplinary and historical extension is. In fact, the three articles in question don't have the same conception of what a mechanism is. I shall begin by exploring the differences between them. However, they seem to share the idea that the concept of mechanism, regardless of its exact definition, has particular relevance in biology; in any case they are based on examples taken from contemporary biology. Against this idea, I will show that a certain concept of mechanism is useful to better understand how some explanations function in Cartesian physics and try to specify what this concept is.