Interventionism and Higher-level Causation

International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 28 (1):49-64 (2014)
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Several authors have recently claimed that the notorious causal exclusion problem, according to which higher-level causes are threatened with causal pre-emption by lower-level causes, can be avoided if causal relevance is understood in terms of Woodward's interventionist account of causation. They argue that if causal relevance is defined in interventionist terms, there are cases where only higher-level properties, but not the lower-level properties underlying them, qualify as causes of a certain effect. In this article, I show that the line of reasoning supposed to establish this claim does not succeed and that interventionism is not better capable of dealing with higher-level causal claims than other accounts of causation. According to Woodward, higher-level causal claims are nonetheless more adequate than lower-level ones if they describe a realization-independent dependency relationship and, hence, meet the requirement that causes should be proportional to their effects. I argue, however, that combining interventionism with proportionality considerations raises difficulties and that, therefore, Woodward's account does not vindicate higher-level causation



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Vera Hoffmann-Kolss
University of Bern

Citations of this work

Halfway Proportionality.Bram Vaassen - 2022 - Philosophical Studies (9):1-21.
The Inherent Empirical Underdetermination of Mental Causation.Michael Baumgartner - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (2):335-350.
Exclusion Excluded.Brad Weslake - forthcoming - In Alastair Wilson & Katie Robertson (eds.), Levels of Explanation. Oxford University Press.

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