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Carl F. Craver

​Professor of Philosophy and Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology
PhD, University of Pittsburgh
research interests:
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • History of Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuropsychology
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    • Washington University
    • CB 1073
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    ​Professor Craver is a philosopher of neuroscience with side interests in the history and philosophy of biology, general philosophy of science, metaphysics, and moral psychology.

    Professor Craver is a philosopher of neuroscience trying to understand how minds fit in a world of causes. His 2007 book, Explaining the Brain, is now considered a locus classicus in the new mechanistic philosophy. The book develops a philosophically grounded but scientifically attentive model of how we explain things by describing their mechanisms at multiple levels of organization. The book builds a systematic model of mechanisms and levels out of philosophically familiar ontological resources (causation and part/whole relations) and shows how the experimental practices of the special sciences are organized in the service of establishing these multilevel mechanistic relations. It has become a much-cited touchstone inside and outside philosophy for articulating the explanatory aims of the neurosciences. 

    His 2013 book in collaboration with Lindley Darden at the University of Maryland, In Search of Mechanisms: Discoveries Across the Life Sciences extends his work on explanation with an historically grounded book about how scientists make discoveries in mechanistic sciences. This book embodies the Baconian spirit of seeking to codify a clear expression of the norms that animate science and that justify respect for science as a way of knowing the world (a central, animating commitment that runs throughout Craver's work). 

    More recently, Craver is pursuing topics in psychiatric genetics and neuropsychology. His work in psychiatric genetics, in collaboration with a group headed by Ken Kendler at Virginia Commonwealth University since 2017, asks whether, and if so how, data from GWAS can be mined to yield coherent mechanistic information about psychiatric disorders. His neuropsychology research, in collaboration with a group headed by Shayna Rosenbaum at York University since 2010, studies individuals with episodic amnesia to discover how remembrance does (and, crucially, does not) figure essentially in the lives distinctive of persons. This latter project is the subject of a new book-in-progress, tentatively titled: Living without Memory

    You can get a sense of his research by visiting his google scholar page and tracing the links to individual papers.

    In Search of Mechanisms: Discoveries Across the Life Sciences

    In Search of Mechanisms: Discoveries Across the Life Sciences

    Neuroscientists investigate the mechanisms of spatial memory. Molecular biologists study the mechanisms of protein synthesis and the myriad mechanisms of gene regulation. Ecologists study nutrient cycling mechanisms and their devastating imbalances in estuaries such as the Chesapeake Bay. In fact, much of biology and its history involves biologists constructing, evaluating, and revising their understanding of mechanisms.

    Explaining the Brain: Mechanisms and the Mosaic Unity of Neuroscience

    Explaining the Brain: Mechanisms and the Mosaic Unity of Neuroscience

    What distinguishes good explanations in neuroscience from bad? Carl F. Craver constructs and defends standards for evaluating neuroscientific explanations that are grounded in a systematic view of what neuroscientific explanations are: descriptions of multilevel mechanisms. In developing this approach, he draws on a wide range of examples in the history of neuroscience (e.g. Hodgkin and Huxley model of the action potential and LTP as a putative explanation for different kinds of memory), as well as recent philosophical work on the nature of scientific explanation. Readers in neuroscience, psychology, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of science will find much to provoke and stimulate them in this book.