Making Sense of Interlevel Causation in Mechanisms from a Metaphysical Perspective
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According to the new mechanistic approach, an acting entity is at a lower mechanistic level than another acting entity if and only if the former is a component in the mechanism for the latter. Craver and Bechtel (Biol Philos 22(4):547–563, 2007. doi: 10.1007/s10539-006-9028-8) argue that a consequence of this view is that there cannot be causal interactions between acting entities at different mechanistic levels. Their main reason seems to be what I will call the Metaphysical Argument: things at different levels of a mechanism are related as part and whole; wholes and their parts cannot be related as cause and effect; hence, interlevel causation in mechanisms is impossible. I will analyze this argument in more detail and show under which conditions it is valid. This analysis will reveal that interlevel causation in mechanisms is indeed possible, if we take seriously the idea that the relata of the mechanistic level relation are acting entities and accept a slightly modified notion of a mechanistic level that is highly plausible in the light of the first clarification.
KeywordsMechanisms Interlevel causation Metaphysics Part-whole relation
I am thankful to Daniel Brooks, Alexander Dinges and Felipe Romero for comments on earlier versions of the paper. Furthermore, I thank the audience of the Carnap Lectures 2015 in Bochum and Albert Newen and my colleagues at RUB for helpful discussions on that topic. Finally, I have to thank four anonymous referees for their constructive feedback. Working on this paper has been supported by the Research Training Group 2185 "Situated Cognition - New Concepts in Investigating Core Mental Phenomena" (Speaker: Albert Newen).
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