David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Journal of Philosophy 104 (11):551-579 (2007)
Biologists studying complex causal systems typically identify some factors as causes and treat other factors as background conditions. For example, when geneticists explain biological phenomena, they often foreground genes and relegate the cellular milieu to the background. But factors in the milieu are as causally necessary as genes for the production of phenotypic traits, even traits at the molecular level such as amino acid sequences. Gene-centered biology has been criticized on the grounds that because there is parity among causes, the “privileging” of genes reflects a reductionist bias, not an ontological difference. The idea that there is an ontological parity among causes is related to a philosophical puzzle identified by John Stuart Mill: what, other than our interests or biases, could possibly justify identifying some causes as the actual or operative ones, and other causes as mere background? The aim of this paper is to solve this conceptual puzzle and to explain why there is not an ontological parity among genes and the other factors. It turns out that solving this puzzle helps answer a seemingly unrelated philosophical question: what kind of causal generality matters in biology?
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
James Woodward (2010). Causation in Biology: Stability, Specificity, and the Choice of Levels of Explanation. Biology and Philosophy 25 (3):287-318.
Maria Kronfeldner (2009). Genetic Determinism and the Innate-Acquired Distinction. Medicine Studies 1 (2):167-181.
Alexander Reutlinger (2012). Getting Rid of Interventions. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 43 (4):787-795.
Pierre-Luc Germain (2012). Cancer Cells and Adaptive Explanations. Biology and Philosophy 27 (6):785-810.
James Tabery (2009). Difference Mechanisms: Explaining Variation with Mechanisms. Biology and Philosophy 24 (5):645-664.
Similar books and articles
Lenny Moss (2006). The Question of Questions: What is a Gene? Comments on Rolston and Griffths & Stotz. [REVIEW] Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 27 (6):523-534.
John Dupré (2004). Understanding Contemporary Genomics. Perspectives on Science 12 (3):320-338.
Andy Clark (1998). Twisted Tales: Causal Complexity and Cognitive Scientific Explanation. [REVIEW] Minds and Machines 8 (1):79-99.
Patricia S. Greenspan (2001). Genes, Electrotransmitters, and Free Will. In Patricia S. Greenspan, David Wasserman & Robert Wachbroit (eds.), Genetics and Criminal Behavior: Methods, Meanings, and Morals. Cambridge University Press.
Michael Wheeler (2007). Traits, Genes, and Coding. In Michael Ruse (ed.), Philosophy of Biology. Prometheus Books. 369--401.
Urs Hofmann & Michael Baumgartner (2011). Determinism and the Method of Difference. Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 26 (2):155-176.
Fred Gifford (1990). Genetic Traits. Biology and Philosophy 5 (3):327-347.
Brant Pridmore (2008). Review of Genes in Development: Re-Reading the Molecular Paradigm. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 23 (4):579-586.
Peter Godfrey-Smith (2007). Information in Biology. In David L. Hull & Michael Ruse (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology. Cambridge University Press. 103--119.
C. Kenneth Waters (1994). Genes Made Molecular. Philosophy of Science 61 (2):163-185.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads94 ( #16,795 of 1,692,495 )
Recent downloads (6 months)9 ( #25,161 of 1,692,495 )
How can I increase my downloads?