Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 547–563

Top-down Causation Without Top-down Causes


DOI: 10.1007/s10539-006-9028-8

Cite this article as:
Craver, C.F. & Bechtel, W. Biol Philos (2007) 22: 547. doi:10.1007/s10539-006-9028-8


We argue that intelligible appeals to interlevel causes (top-down and bottom-up) can be understood, without remainder, as appeals to mechanistically mediated effects. Mechanistically mediated effects are hybrids of causal and constitutive relations, where the causal relations are exclusively intralevel. The idea of causation would have to stretch to the breaking point to accommodate interlevel causes. The notion of a mechanistically mediated effect is preferable because it can do all of the required work without appealing to mysterious interlevel causes. When interlevel causes can be translated into mechanistically mediated effects, the posited relationship is intelligible and should raise no special philosophical objections. When they cannot, they are suspect.


LevelsMechanismsTop-down causationInterlevel causationConstitutionExplanationEmergenceReduction

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology ProgramWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Philosophy-0119University of CaliforniaSan DiegoUSA