Making Sense of Interlevel Causation in Mechanisms from a Metaphysical Perspective
- 117 Downloads
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).
- Bechtel, W. (2008). Mental mechanisms. philosophical perspectives on cognitive neuroscience. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Casati, R., & Varzi, A. (2015). “Events.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N Zalta, Winter 201. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.Google Scholar
- Craver, C. F. (2014). “The Ontic Account of Scientific Explanation.” In Explanation in the Special Sciences: The Case of Biology and History, edited by Marie I Kaiser, Oliver R Scholz, Daniel Plenge, and Andreas Hüttemann, 27–52. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-7563-3_2.
- Kaiser, M., & Krickel, B. (2017). The metaphysics of constitutive mechanistic phenomena. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 68(3), 745–779. doi: 10.1093/bjps/axv058.
- Kim, J. (2005). Physicalism, or something near enough. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Krickel, B. (Forthcoming). Saving the Mutual Manipulability Account of Constitutive Relevance. Special Issue in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A.Google Scholar
- Krickel, B. (Under Review). The Metaphysics of Mechanisms.Google Scholar
- Lewis, D. K. (1986). Events. In L. David (Ed.), Philosophical papers (Vol. II, pp. 241–269). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Quine, W. V. (1948). “On What There Is.” The Review of Metaphysics 2 (5). Philosophy Education Society Inc.: 21–38. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20123117.
- Robb, D., & Heil. J. (2014). “Mental Causation.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N Zalta, Spring 201. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.Google Scholar
- Simons, P., & Melia, J. (2000). “Continuants and Occurrents.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes 74. [Aristotelian Society, Wiley]: 59–92. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4107052.
- Woodward, J. (2003). Making things happen: A theory of causal explanation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar