2.18 Mechanisms

Category: Philosophy of Science

Keywords: mechanistic, patterns, behavioral, mechanism, psychologists, levels, behavior, pattern, mechanisms, organization, psychology, stimuli, organism, responses, stimulus

Number of Articles: 269
Percentage of Total: 0.8%
Rank: 59th

Weighted Number of Articles: 345.3
Percentage of Total: 1.1%
Rank: 34th

Mean Publication Year: 1959.9
Weighted Mean Publication Year: 1965.8
Median Publication Year: 1955
Modal Publication Year: 1953

Topic with Most Overlap: Life and Value (0.0342)
Topic this Overlaps Most With: Cognitive Science (0.0558)
Topic with Least Overlap: Kant (0.00039)
Topic this Overlaps Least With: Ontological Argument (0.00096)

A scatterplot showing which proportion of articles each year are in the mechanismstopic. The x-axis shows the year, the y-axis measures the proportion of articles each year in this topic. There is one dot per year. The highest value is in 1922 when 3.9% of articles were in this topic. The lowest value is in 1885 when 0.0% of articles were in this topic. The full table that provides the data for this graph is available in Table A.18 in Appendix A.

Figure 2.48: Mechanisms.

A set of twelve scatterplots showing the proportion of articles in each journal in each year that are in the Mechanismstopic. There is one scatterplot for each of the twelve journals that are the focus of this book. In each scatterplot, the x-axis is the year, and the y-axis is the proportion of articles in that year in that journal in this topic. Here are the average values for each of the twelve scatterplots - these tell you on average how much of the journal is dedicated to this topic. Mind - 0.5%. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society - 0.6%. Ethics - 0.9%. Philosophical Review - 0.9%. Analysis - 0.3%. Philosophy and Public Affairs - 0.4%. Journal of Philosophy - 1.5%. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research - 1.1%. Philosophy of Science - 2.9%. Noûs - 0.7%. The Philosophical Quarterly - 0.4%. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science - 1.3%. The topic reaches its zenith in year 1927 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 2.8% of the articles. And it hits a minimum in year 1885 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 0.0% of the articles.

Figure 2.49: Mechanisms articles in each journal.

Table 2.44: Characteristic articles of the mechanisms topic.
Table 2.45: Highly cited articles in the mechanisms topic.


This one really surprised me.

It isn’t a surprise that there is a topic on mechanisms. “Thinking About Mechanisms” is one of the most cited philosophy papers of the last few decades, and it makes sense that it would give rise to a topic.

No, what really surprised me was that there are so many articles in here from so long ago. I thought this would be a very modern topic, really taking off after 2000.

Part of what happens is that there is a series of articles on, broadly speaking, behaviorist psychology that end up here. These start out looking like straightforward philosophy of mind articles, but they move into being something more like psychology or philosophy of psychology articles, and from there it isn’t too hard to get to philosophy of biology. And that’s basically where the topic ends up, and it’s how I’ve classified it. So it includes papers like “A Tentative Analysis of the Primary Data of Psychology(Kantor 1921), which is an attempt to separate out what is meant by stimulus, response and behavior. This is taken to be the crucial foundational question, because these constitute the core psychological data. It’s a fairly interesting bit of history, and one that I wasn’t at all aware played out in philosophy journals.