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Making sense of downward causation in manipulationism

Abstract : Many researchers consider cancer to have molecular causes, namely mutated genes that result in abnormal cell proliferation (e.g. Weinberg 1998); yet for others, the causes of cancer are to be found not at the molecular level but at the tissue level and carcinogenesis would consist in a disrupted tissue organization with downward causation effects on cells and cellular components (e.g. Sonnenschein & Soto 2008). In this contribution, I ponder how to make sense of such downward causation claims. Adopting a manipulationist account of causation (Woodward 2003), I propose a formal definition of downward causation, and discuss further requirements (in light of Baumgartner 2009). I then show that such an account cannot be mobilized in support of non-reductive physicalism (contrary to Raatikainen 2010). However, I also argue that such downward causation claims might point at particularly interesting dynamic properties of causal relationships that might prove salient in characterizing causal relationships (following Woodward 2010).
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Contributor : Christophe Malaterre <>
Submitted on : Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 2:02:30 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, September 22, 2020 - 3:53:03 AM


  • HAL Id : halshs-00792353, version 1


Christophe Malaterre. Making sense of downward causation in manipulationism. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, Springer Verlag, 2011, 33, pp.537-562. ⟨halshs-00792353⟩



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