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Mechanisms and Downward Causation

Kistler, Max (2007) Mechanisms and Downward Causation. In: [2007] EPSA07: 1st Conference of the European Philosophy of Science Association (Madrid, 15-17 November, 2007).

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    Abstract

    To explain phenomenon R by showing how mechanism M yields output R each time it is triggered by circumstances C, is to give a causal explanation of R. This paper analyses what mechanistic analysis can contribute to our understanding of causation in general and of downward causation in particular. It is first shown, against Glennan (1996), that the concept of causation cannot be reduced to that of mechanism. Second it is suggested to correct Craver and Bechtel’s (2006) claim that the framework of mechanistic explanation dissolves the appearance of causal processes that « cut across levels ». Their analysis is inadequate for cases of « downward causation ». I suggest construing a decision's influence on molecules in muscle cells as a global constraint. Microscopic laws determine the detailed evolution of muscle cells and glucose molecules, but this evolution is constrained by the fact that it must be compatible with the action caused by the decision. The constraint the decision exercises on microscopic processes in muscle cells cannot be understood in terms of constitution because the decision doesn't constitute the microscopic processes


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    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
    Keywords: Causation, Downward Causation, bottom-up, top-down, Mechanism, Explanation, Interlevel, Level, learning, hippocampus, constitution, constraint, manipulation, intervention
    Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Neuroscience
    Specific Sciences > Psychology/Psychiatry
    Specific Sciences > Medicine
    Specific Sciences > Biology > Molecular Biology/Genetics
    General Issues > Causation
    General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
    General Issues > Experimentation
    General Issues > Determinism/Indeterminism
    Conferences and Volumes: [2007] EPSA07: 1st Conference of the European Philosophy of Science Association (Madrid, 15-17 November, 2007)
    Depositing User: Max Kistler
    Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2007
    Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 11:15
    Item ID: 3709
    URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/3709

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