Philosophy of Science 87 (1):70-90 (2020)

Oliver Lean
University of Bristol
Binding specificity is a centrally important concept in molecular biology, yet it has received little philosophical attention. Here I aim to remedy this by analyzing binding specificity as a causal property. I focus on the concept’s role in drug design, where it is highly prized and hence directly studied. From a causal perspective, understanding why binding specificity is a valuable property of drugs contributes to an understanding of causal selection—of how and why scientists distinguish between causes, not just causes from noncauses. In particular, the specificity of drugs is precisely what underwrites their value as experimental interventions on biological processes.
Keywords causation  drug design  molecular biology
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1086/706093
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

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

Thinking About Mechanisms.Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden & Carl F. Craver - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (1):1-25.
The New Mechanical Philosophy.Stuart Glennan - 2017 - Oxford University Press.
Genetics and Philosophy : An Introduction.Paul Griffiths & Karola Stotz - 2013 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Causes That Make a Difference.C. Kenneth Waters - 2007 - Journal of Philosophy 104 (11):551-579.

View all 20 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Host Specificity in Biological Control.Thomas Blanchard - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
Philosophy of Developmental Biology.Marcel Weber - 2022 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Variation of Information as a Measure of One-to-One Causal Specificity.Pierrick Bourrat - 2018 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 9 (1):11.
Which Kind of Causal Specificity Matters Biologically?Marcel Weber - 2017 - Philosophy of Science 84 (3):574-585.
Biological Information, Causality and Specificity - an Intimate Relationship.Karola Stotz & Paul E. Griffiths - 2017 - In Sara Imari Walker, Paul Davies & George Ellis (eds.), From Matter to Life: Information and Causality. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 366-390.
Selection as a Cause Versus the Causes of Selection.A. Charles Catania - 2001 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (3):533-533.
The Causal Crux of Selection.Robert Alan Skipper - 2001 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (3):556-556.
Why Specific Design is Not the Mark of the Adaptational.Jerome C. Wakefield - 2002 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25 (4):532-533.
Integrating Research and Development: The Emergence of Rational Drug Design in the Pharmaceutical Industry.Matthias Adam - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (3):513-537.


Added to PP index

Total views
60 ( #191,821 of 2,518,507 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
16 ( #50,355 of 2,518,507 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes