Predrag Šustar

Full Professor

Department of Philosophy

University of Rijeka


Scientific Explanation: Laws, Mechanisms, and Models

Here, together with my research associates, I focus on different types of cognitive means (mostly, scientific laws, causal concepts such as mechanisms and causal pathways, and scientific models) through which we maximize our understanding of the living world. We closely look at explanatory strategies deployed by, primarily, molecular and evolutionary biologists. In particular, we try to clarify the structure of the strategies, the assumptions on which they tacitly rely, and how they relate to other basic scientific procedures, such as, medical interventions.

Scientific Understanding

This notion is examined not only in the sense of an ‘aha feeling’, but, primarily, for the following two general reasons: (1) as related to the above notion of scientific explanation; and (2) as related to the issue of non-factivism or/and non-veritism, that is, departures from truth, in explaining natural phenomena. To put both points more schematically, I am explicating this locution: S understands that X because Y, where S is an explanation seeker (scientist or, more realistically, a certain scientific community), X the explanandum phenomenon, and Y the explanans. Accordingly, I focus on the puzzle concerned with the role of idealizations in explaining natural phenomena. That is, despite securing significant cognitive benefits, truth or accuracy are not fully among them, given the falsifying, misrepresenting feature of scientific idealizations. Now, it seems that a philosophical examination of scientific understanding comes to the rescue in dealing with the puzzle in question.

Biological Functions and (Other) Biological Metaphors

(i) My research on biological functions is part of a collaborative program with Zdenka Brzović. We address the question what is the adequate notion of function in biology, specifically, in the area of genome biology. Also, we address whether the account we defend can be transferred to medicine, where the notion under consideration is used in defining the neighboring notions of health and disease.

(ii) Finally, I assess current general trends, both in the philosophy of biology and in the life sciences, in emphasizing distinct roles played by a scientific metaphor; especially, the theoretical roles, most notably, the explanatory role. In that regard, I steer a middle course between overly enthusiastic and sceptical stances.


Minister, Ministry of Science, Education and Sport

2009 – 2015

Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Rijeka

2003 - 2009

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Rijeka


PhD in Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, University of Padua


MA in Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, University of Padua


MSc in Molecular Biology, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, University of Zagreb

  • 2018: Award from Croatian Institute of Philosophy for the best student essay (PhD level) in the academic year 2017/2018.

  • 2018: Award for Excellence from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Rijeka for young researchers in Humanities