Functional stability and systems level causation

Philosophy of Science 76 (5):809-820 (2009)
A wide range of gene knockout experiments shows that functional stability is an important feature of biological systems. On this backdrop, we present an argument for higher‐level causation based on counterfactual dependence. Furthermore, we sketch a metaphysical picture providing resources to explain the metaphysical nature of functional stability, higher‐level causation, and the relevant notion of levels. Our account aims to clarify the role empirical results and philosophical assumptions should play in debates about reductionism and higher‐level causation. It thereby contributes to the development of a philosophical foundation for systems biology. †To contact the authors, please write to: CSMN/IFIKK, University of Oslo, Box 1020 Blindern, N‐0315, Oslo, Norway; e‐mail: ,
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