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Explaining Causal Selection with Explanatory Causal Economy: Biology and Beyond

In P.-A. Braillard & C. Malaterre (eds.), Explanation in Biology: An Enquiry into the Diversity of Explanatory Patterns in the Life Sciences. Springer. pp. 413-438 (2015)

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  1. Causality Reunified.Michael Strevens - 2013 - Erkenntnis 78 (2):299-320.
    Hall has recently argued that there are two concepts of causality, picking out two different kinds of causal relation. McGrath, and Hitchcock and Knobe, have recently argued that the facts about causality depend on what counts as a “default” or “normal” state, or even on the moral facts. In the light of these claims you might be tempted to agree with Skyrms that causal relations constitute, metaphysically speaking, an “amiable jumble”, or with Cartwright that ‘causation’, though a single word, encompasses (...)
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  • The Selectivity of Aesthetic Explanation.Moonyoung Song - 2021 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 79 (1):5-15.
    It is widely agreed that an artwork having certain non-aesthetic properties explains its having a certain aesthetic property. One interesting feature of such an explanation is its selectivity—it cites only some of the non-aesthetic properties on which the presence of the aesthetic property depends. Hence a question arises as to what distinguishes the selected non-aesthetic properties from the unselected ones. I answer this question by proposing a selection principle modeled on Laura Franklin-Hall’s selection principle for causal explanation, according to which (...)
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  • Causation, Physics, and Fit.Christian Loew - 2017 - Synthese 194 (6):1945–1965.
    Our ordinary causal concept seems to fit poorly with how our best physics describes the world. We think of causation as a time-asymmetric dependence relation between relatively local events. Yet fundamental physics describes the world in terms of dynamical laws that are, possible small exceptions aside, time symmetric and that relate global time slices. My goal in this paper is to show why we are successful at using local, time-asymmetric models in causal explanations despite this apparent mismatch with fundamental physics. (...)
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  • Binding Specificity and Causal Selection in Drug Design.Oliver M. Lean - 2020 - Philosophy of Science 87 (1):70-90.
    Binding specificity is a centrally important concept in molecular biology, yet it has received little philosophical attention. Here I aim to remedy this by analyzing binding specificity as a causal property. I focus on the concept’s role in drug design, where it is highly prized and hence directly studied. From a causal perspective, understanding why binding specificity is a valuable property of drugs contributes to an understanding of causal selection—of how and why scientists distinguish between causes, not just causes from (...)
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  • List and Menzies on High‐Level Causation.Jens Jäger - 2021 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 102 (4):570-591.
    I raise two objections against Christian List and Peter Menzies' influential account of high-level causation. Improving upon some of Stephen Yablo's earlier work, I develop an alternative theory which evades both objections. The discussion calls into question List and Menzies' main contention, namely, that the exclusion principle, applied to difference-making, is false.
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  • What is Causal Specificity About, and What is It Good for in Philosophy of Biology?María Ferreira Ruiz - 2021 - Acta Biotheoretica 69 (4):821-839.
    The concept of causal specificity is drawing considerable attention from philosophers of biology. It became the rationale for rejecting a thesis of causal parity of developmental factors. This literature assumes that attributing specificity to causal relations is at least in principle a straightforward task. However, the parity debate in philosophy of biology seems to be stuck at a point where it is not the biological details that will help move forward. In this paper, I take a step back to reexamine (...)
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  • Interactionism, Post-Interactionism, and Causal Complexity: Lessons From the Philosophy of Causation.María Ferreira Ruiz & Jon Umerez - 2021 - Frontiers in Psychology 12.
    In biology and philosophy of biology, discussing the notion of interaction leads to an examination of interactionism, which is, broadly speaking, the view that rejects gene-centrism and gene determinism and instead emphasizes the fact that traits of organisms are always the result of genes and environments. It has long been asserted that the nature-nurture problem requires an interactionist solution of sorts, the so-called interactionist consensus. This consensus, however, has been deemed insufficient and challenged by several authors triggering an extension of (...)
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  • Variation of Information as a Measure of One-to-One Causal Specificity.Pierrick Bourrat - 2018 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 9 (1):11.
    The interventionist account provides us with several notions permitting the qualification of causal relationships. In recent years, there has been a push toward formalizing these notions using information theory. In this paper, I discuss one of them, namely causal specificity. The notion of causal specificity is ambiguous as it can refer to at least two different concepts. After having presented these, I show that current attempts to formalize causal specificity in information theoretic terms have mostly focused on one of these (...)
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  • On Calcott’s Permissive and Instructive Cause Distinction.Pierrick Bourrat - 2019 - Biology and Philosophy 34 (1):1.
    I argue that Calcott :481–505, Calcott 2017) mischaracterizes in an important way the notion of causal specificity proposed by Woodward :287–318, Woodward 2010). This leads him to rely too heavily on one single aspect of Woodward’s analysis on causal specificity; propose an information-theoretic measure he calls ‘precision’ which is partly redundant with, but less general than one of the dimensions in Woodward’s analysis of specificity, without acknowledging Woodward’s analysis; and claim that comparing the specificities of two or more causes under (...)
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  • The Animal Sexes as Historical Explanatory Kinds.Laura Franklin-Hall - 2020 - In Shamik Dasgupta, Ravit Dotan & Brad Weslake (eds.), Current Controversies in Philosophy of Science. Routledge. pp. 177-197.
    Though biologists identify individuals as ‘male’ or ‘female’ across a broad range of animal species, the particular traits exhibited by males and females can vary tremendously. This diversity has led some to conclude that cross-animal sexes (males, or females, of whatever animal species) have “little or no explanatory power” (Dupré 1986: 447) and, thus, are not natural kinds in any traditional sense. This essay will explore considerations for and against this conclusion, ultimately arguing that the animal sexes, properly understood, are (...)
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  • Philosophy of Developmental Biology.Marcel Weber - 2022 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    The history of developmental biology is interwoven with debates as to whether mechanistic explanations of development are possible or whether alternative explanatory principles or even vital forces need to be assumed. In particular, the demonstrated ability of embryonic cells to tune their developmental fate precisely to their relative position and the overall size of the embryo was once thought to be inexplicable in mechanistic terms. Taking a causal perspective, this Element examines to what extent and how developmental biology, having turned (...)
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  • Explanation in Biology: An Enquiry Into the Diversity of Explanatory Patterns in the Life Sciences.P.-A. Braillard and C. Malaterre (ed.) - 2015 - Springer.
  • The Causal Economy Approach to Scientific Explanation.Laura Franklin-Hall - forthcoming - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science.
    This paper sketches a causal account of scientific explanation designed to sustain the judgment that high-level, detail-sparse explanations—particularly those offered in biology—can be at least as explanatorily valuable as lower-level counterparts. The motivating idea is that complete explanations maximize causal economy: they cite those aspects of an event’s causal run-up that offer the biggest-bang-for-your-buck, by costing less (in virtue of being abstract) and delivering more (in virtue making the event stable or robust).
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  • Causal Control: A Rationale for Causal Selection.Lauren N. Ross - 2015
    Causal selection has to do with the distinction we make between background conditions and “the” true cause or causes of some outcome of interest. A longstanding consensus in philosophy views causal selection as lacking any objective rationale and as guided, instead, by arbitrary, pragmatic, and non-scientific considerations. I argue against this position in the context of causal selection for disease traits. In this domain, causes are selected on the basis of the type of causal control they exhibit over a disease (...)
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