Mechanisms and downward causation

Philosophical Psychology 22 (5):595-609 (2010)
Experimental investigation of mechanisms seems to make use of causal relations that cut across levels of composition. In bottom-up experiments, one intervenes on parts of a mechanism to observe the whole; in top-down experiments, one intervenes on the whole mechanism to observe certain parts of it. It is controversial whether such experiments really make use of interlevel causation, and indeed whether the idea of causation across levels is even conceptually coherent. Craver and Bechtel have suggested that interlevel causal claims can be analysed in a causal and a non-causal component. I accept this idea but argue that their account should be modified so as to account of cases of apparent downward causation. First, constitution must be distinguished from identity; second, the analysis of downward causation requires the concept of a partial constraint. An analysis along these lines shows that the possibility of downward causation is not refuted by Kim's argument according to which it is incompatible with the completeness of physics
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