Mapping Explanatory Language In Neuroscience

The next (hybrid) meeting of the seminar “Philosophy of Cognitive Science” will take place on June, 15th, at 11:30 (AM Warsaw, CET). This time we will meet in person (and online), the seminar will take place in Staszic Palace (IFiS PAN)room: 154, and at Google Meet (email for the link and the paper).

Our guest will be Daniel Kostić (University of Leiden). We will discuss the manuscript [co-written with Willem Halffman (Radboud University)]: Mapping Explanatory Language in Neuroscience

Abstract:  The philosophical literature on scientific explanation in neuroscience has been dominated by the idea of mechanisms. The mechanist philosophers often claim that neuroscience is in the business of finding mechanisms. This view has been challenged in numerous ways by showing that there are other successful and widespread explanatory strategies in neuroscience. However, the empirical evidence for these claims was hitherto lacking. Empirical evidence about the pervasiveness and uses of various explanatory strategies in neuroscience is particularly needed because examples and case studies that are used to illustrate philosophical claims so far tend to be hand-picked. The risk of confirmation bias is therefore considerable: when looking for white swans, all one finds is that swans are white. The more systematic quantitative and qualitative bibliometric study of a large body of relevant literature that we present in this paper can put such claims into perspective. Using bibliometric tools, we identify the typical linguistic patterns used in the alleged mechanistic, dynamical, and topological explanations in the literature, their preponderance and how they change over time. Our findings show abundant use of mechanistic language, but also the presence of a significant neuroscience literature using topological and dynamical explanatory language, which grows over time and increasingly differentiates from each other and from mechanistic explanations.

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