Account for macro-level causation

Synthese 101 (2):129-156 (1994)
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Abstract

By a macro-level feature, I understand any feature that supervenes on, and is thus realized in, lower-level features. Recent discussions by Kim have suggested that such features cannot be causally relevant insofar as they are not classically reducible to lower-level features. This seems to render macro-level features causally irrelevant. I defend the causal relevance of some such features. Such features have been thought causally relevant in many examples that have underpinned philosophical work on causality. Additionally, in certain typical biological cases, we conceive of causally relevant features at various compatible levels of analysis. When elaborated, these points make a strong prima facie case for macro-level causal relevance. However, we might abandon both the philosophical guideposts and the corresponding explanatory practice in the special sciences were we convinced that no reflective philosophical account could provide for the causal relevance there supposed. I show that such drastic measures are not necessary, for we can make sense of macro-level causal relevance by drawing on Paul Humphreys' recent work in ways suggested by the concrete examples considered here.

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Author's Profile

David Henderson
University of Nebraska, Lincoln

References found in this work

Causation.David Lewis - 1973 - Journal of Philosophy 70 (17):556-567.
Functional analysis.Robert E. Cummins - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.
Explanatory unification and the causal structure of the world.Philip Kitcher - 1962 - In Philip Kitcher & Wesley C. Salmon (eds.), Scientific Explanation. Univ of Minnesota Pr. pp. 410-505.

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