I'm a Lecturer in Philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis. I received my PhD from the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology (PNP) program at Washington University in St. Louis on May 18, 2017. I defended my dissertation, Model and World: Generalizing the Ontic Conception of Scientific Explanation, on March 10, 2017.
My research focuses on scientific explanation. My dissertation, Model and World: Generalizing the Ontic Conception of Scientific Explanation, defends a theory of scientific explanation that I call the “Generalized Ontic Conception” (GOC): A model explains when and only when it provides (approximately) veridical information about the ontic structures on which the explanandum phenomenon depends. Causal and mechanistic explanations are species of GOC in which the ontic structures on which the explanandum phenomenon depends are causes and mechanisms, respectively, and the kinds of dependence involved are causal and constitutive/mechanistic, respectively. The kind of dependence relation about which information is provided determines the species of the explanation. This provides an intuitive typology of explanations and opens the possibility for non-causal, non-mechanistic explanations that provide information about non-causal, non-mechanistic kinds of dependence (Pincock 2015; Povich forthcoming). What unites all these forms of explanation is that, by providing information about the ontic structures on which the explanandum phenomenon depends, they can answer what-if-things-had-been-different questions (w-questions) about the explanandum phenomenon. This is what makes causal explanations, mechanistic explanations, and non-causal, non-mechanistic explanations all explanations.
GOC is a generalized ontic conception of scientific explanation (Salmon 1984, 1989; Craver 2014). It is consistent with Craver's claim that, according to the ontic conception, commitments to ontic structures (like causes or mechanisms) are required to demarcate explanation from other scientific achievements. GOC demarcates explanatory from non-explanatory models in terms of ontic structures. For example, the distinction between explanatory and phenomenal models is cashed out in terms of the ontic structures about which information is conveyed: A phenomenal model provides information about the explanandum phenomenon, but not the ontic structures on which it depends. GOC is generalized because it says that commitments to more of the ontic than just the causal-mechanical – the traditional focus of the ontic conception – are required adequately to achieve this demarcation; attention is required to all ontic structures on which the explanandum depends.
I explicate the relation between model and world required for explanation in terms of information rather than mapping, reference, description, or similarity (Craver and Kaplan 2011; Kaplan 2011; Weisberg 2013). The latter concepts prove too strong; accounts that rely on those concepts do not count some models as explanatory that in fact are. Take Kaplan and Craver's (2011) model-to-mechanism-mapping (3M) principle. According to 3M, the variables in an explanatory model must map to specific structural components and causal interactions of the explanandum phenomenon's mechanism. However, you can explain without referring to the explanandum's mechanism or its components and their activities, for example, by describing what the mechanism is not like. This is a way of constraining or conveying information about a mechanism without actually mapping to, referring to, describing, representing, or being similar to it.
In future work, I plan to continue working on scientific explanation and modeling as well as the intersection of the theory of explanation and social epistemology. I also plan to work on theories of realization, the subset theory in particular.
Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO May 2017
Dissertation: Model and World: Generalizing the Ontic Conception of Scientific Explanation
Committee: Carl Craver (advisor), John Heil, Ron Mallon, Anya Plutynski, Stuart Glennan (outside committee member)
Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO December 2010
AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION
Philosophy of science, philosophy of psychology, philosophy of neuroscience.
AREAS OF COMPETENCE
Philosophy of mind, philosophy of biology, feminist philosophy.
 Povich, Mark and Carl F. Craver. “Review of Marc Lange's Because Without Cause: Non-Causal Explanations in Science and Mathematics”. Philosophical Review (Forthcoming).
 Povich, Mark. “Social Knowledge and Supervenience Revisited”. Erkenntnis (Forthcoming c). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10670-017-9926-y
 Craver, Carl F. and Mark Povich. “The Directionality of Distinctively Mathematical Explanations”. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 63 (2017): 31–8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsa.2017.04.005
 Povich, Mark. “Mechanistic Explanation in Psychology”. In The SAGE Handbook of Theoretical Psychology. (Eds.) Hank Stam and Huib Looren de Jong. Forthcoming.
 Povich, Mark and Carl F. Craver. “Mechanistic Levels, Reduction, and Emergence”. In The Routledge Handbook of Mechanisms and Mechanical Philosophy. (Eds.) Stuart Glennan and Phyllis Illari. Forthcoming.
 Povich, Mark. “Minimal Models and the Generalized Ontic Conception of Scientific Explanation”. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (2018): 117–37. https://doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axw019
 Povich, Mark. “Mechanisms and Model-Based Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging”. Philosophy of Science 82 (December 2015): 1035–1046. https://doi.org/10.1086/683438
WORK IN PROGRESS
Povich, Mark. “Model-based Cognitive Neuroscience: Multilevel Mechanistic Integration in Practice.” Invited by Theory and Psychology for a special issue on mechanisms.
Povich, Mark. “Truth(making) by Convention”.
Povich, Mark. “Information and Explanation: A Dilemma”.
Povich, Mark. “The Narrow Ontic Counterfactual Account of Distinctively Mathematical Explanation.”
Lee, Sangil, Mark Povich, Ryan Hoopes, Joel Myerson, and Leonard Green. “The Effect of Symbolic Information on Delay Discounting of Real Liquid Rewards”.
CONFERENCE TALKS AND PRESENTATIONS
“The Directionality of Distinctively Mathematical Explanations” (co-authored with and presented by Carl Craver). Colloquium at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. October 24, 2017.
“Comments on Emily Prychitko’s ‘Establishing Constitutive Relevance in Mechanisms’.” The Society for Metaphysics of Science at Fordham University. October 5-7, 2017.
“Model and World: Generalizing the Ontic Conception of Scientific Explanation”. Colloquium at Washington University in St. Louis. April 13, 2017.
“Information and Explanation: An Inconsistent Triad”. (Poster). 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association (Atlanta, GA). November 3-5, 2016.
“Implications of Robustness for the Theory of Explanation”. (Poster). Robustness in Neurological Systems Conference, Center for Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh. November 14, 2015.
“Accuracy and Explanation in Minimal Models”. Saint Louis Area Philosophy of Science Association (SLAPSA). St. Louis, Missouri. February 28, 2015.
“Mechanisms and Model-Based fMRI”. 24th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association (Chicago, IL). November 7, 2014.
“The Effect of Symbolic Information on Delay Discounting of Real Liquid Rewards”. Sangil Lee, Mark A. Povich, Joel Myerson, and Leonard Green. (Poster). Society for the Quantitative Analyses of Behavior (SQAB) 36th Annual Meeting, May 23–May 25, 2013. Minneapolis, Minnesota.
American Philosophical Association Central Division 2015. Symposium Chair: Mark Povich (Washington University in St. Louis). Speaker: Emily Sullivan (Fordham University). Commentator: Collin Rice (Lycoming College).
Journals: British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Erkenntnis, Mind, Philosophy of Science, Tereoma, Topoi.
OTHER SERVICE AND ACTIVITY
Member of the American Philosophical Association
Member of the Philosophy of Science Association
Co-founder (with Christiane Merritt), Feminist Philosophy Reading Group, Washington University in St. Louis, 2013–2016. We met weekly to discuss readings in feminist philosophy. Past readings included Out from the Shadows: Analytical Feminist Contributions to Traditional Philosophy and Neurofeminism: Issues at the Intersection of Feminist Theory and Cognitive Science.
Member and researcher in Dr. Leonard Green's Behavioral Economics Laboratory, 2010–present. My experiments investigated why humans exhibit a phenomenon called the amount effect (i.e. larger rewards are discounted less steeply), whereas nonhuman animals do not.
Founding member of the Washington University in St. Louis chapter of Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) and COMPASS. We put together a conference for minority undergraduates in philosophy and inviting prominent minority speakers.
Graduate Student Senator (representative of the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program to the Graduate Student Senate), Washington University in St. Louis, 2012–2016. Responsibilities included monthly meetings to discuss issues affecting graduate students, including healthcare and housing.
Coordinator of the PB&Joy Food Drive, a community service event of the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement at Washington University in St. Louis, Spring 2014 and Spring 2015. I coordinated the location and pickup of a bin in which various goods could be donated.
Judge for the Graduate Research Symposium, Spring 2014 and Spring 2015.
Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO Fall 2107 – Spring 2018
Courses: Philosophy of Scientific Reasoning (Spring 2018); Introduction to Cognitive Science (Spring 2018); Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Reading Class (Spring 2018); Great Philosophers (Fall 2017); Inquiry into the Cognitive Sciences (Fall 2017).
Graduate Teaching Assistant
Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO Fall 2012 – Spring 2016
Courses: Introduction to Cognitive Science; Philosophy of Language; Mind, Brain, and Behavior; Present Moral Problems; Problems in Philosophy.