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Lauren N. Ross
University of California, Irvine
  1. Causal Concepts in Biology: How Pathways Differ from Mechanisms and Why It Matters.Lauren N. Ross - 2021 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 72 (1):131-158.
    In the last two decades few topics in philosophy of science have received as much attention as mechanistic explanation. A significant motivation for these accounts is that scientists frequently use the term “mechanism” in their explanations of biological phenomena. While scientists appeal to a variety of causal concepts in their explanations, many philosophers argue or assume that all of these concepts are well understood with the single notion of mechanism. This reveals a significant problem with mainstream mechanistic accounts– although philosophers (...)
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  2. Dynamical Models and Explanation in Neuroscience.Lauren N. Ross - 2015 - Philosophy of Science 82 (1):32-54.
    Kaplan and Craver claim that all explanations in neuroscience appeal to mechanisms. They extend this view to the use of mathematical models in neuroscience and propose a constraint such models must meet in order to be explanatory. I analyze a mathematical model used to provide explanations in dynamical systems neuroscience and indicate how this explanation cannot be accommodated by the mechanist framework. I argue that this explanation is well characterized by Batterman’s account of minimal model explanations and that it demonstrates (...)
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  3. Cascade versus Mechanism: The Diversity of Causal Structure in Science.Lauren N. Ross - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
    According to mainstream philosophical views causal explanation in biology and neuroscience is mechanistic. As the term ‘mechanism’ gets regular use in these fields it is unsurprising that philosophers consider it important to scientific explanation. What is surprising is that they consider it the only causal term of importance. This paper provides an analysis of a new causal concept—it examines the cascade concept in science and the causal structure it refers to. I argue that this concept is importantly different from the (...)
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  4. Causal Control: A Rationale for Causal Selection.Lauren N. Ross - 2015
    Causal selection has to do with the distinction we make between background conditions and “the” true cause or causes of some outcome of interest. A longstanding consensus in philosophy views causal selection as lacking any objective rationale and as guided, instead, by arbitrary, pragmatic, and non-scientific considerations. I argue against this position in the context of causal selection for disease traits. In this domain, causes are selected on the basis of the type of causal control they exhibit over a disease (...)
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  5.  47
    Irreversible (One-hit) and Reversible (Sustaining) Causation.Lauren N. Ross & James F. Woodward - 2022 - Philosophy of Science 89 (5):889-898.
    This paper explores a distinction among causal relationships that has yet to receive attention in the philosophical literature, namely, whether causal relationships are reversible or irreversible. We provide an analysis of this distinction and show how it has important implications for causal inference and modeling. This work also clarifies how various familiar puzzles involving preemption and over-determination play out differently depending on whether the causation involved is reversible.
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  6. What is social structural explanation? A causal account.Lauren N. Ross - 2023 - Noûs 1 (1):163-179.
    Social scientists appeal to various “structures” in their explanations including public policies, economic systems, and social hierarchies. Significant debate surrounds the explanatory relevance of these factors for various outcomes such as health, behavioral, and economic patterns. This paper provides a causal account of social structural explanation that is motivated by Haslanger (2016). This account suggests that social structure can be explanatory in virtue of operating as a causal constraint, which is a causal factor with unique characteristics. A novel causal framework (...)
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  7.  66
    Distinguishing topological and causal explanation.Lauren N. Ross - 2020 - Synthese 198 (10):9803-9820.
    Recent philosophical work has explored the distinction between causal and non-causal forms of explanation. In this literature, topological explanation is viewed as a clear example of the non-causal variety–it is claimed that topology lacks temporal information, which is necessary for causal structure. This paper explores the distinction between topological and causal forms of explanation and argues that this distinction is not as clear cut as the literature suggests. One reason for this is that some explanations involve both topological and causal (...)
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  8.  95
    Multiple Realizability from a Causal Perspective.Lauren N. Ross - 2020 - Philosophy of Science 87 (4):640-662.
    This article examines the multiple realizability thesis within a causal framework. The beginnings of this framework are found in Elliott Sober’s “Multiple Realizability Argument against Reduction,”...
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  9.  73
    Explanation in contexts of causal complexity : lessons from psychiatric genetics.Lauren N. Ross - 2023 - In William C. Bausman, Janella K. Baxter & Oliver M. Lean (eds.), From biological practice to scientific metaphysics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  10.  99
    Koch’s postulates: An interventionist perspective.Lauren N. Ross & James F. Woodward - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 59:35-46.
    We argue that Koch’s postulates are best understood within an interventionist account of causation, in the sense described in Woodward. We show how this treatment helps to resolve interpretive puzzles associated with Koch’s work and how it clarifies the different roles the postulates play in providing useful, yet not universal criteria for disease causation. Our paper is an effort at rational reconstruction; we attempt to show how Koch’s postulates and reasoning make sense and are normatively justified within an interventionist framework (...)
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  11. Causes with material continuity.Lauren N. Ross - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (6):1-17.
    Recent philosophical work on causation has focused on distinctions across types of causal relationships. This paper argues for another distinction that has yet to receive attention in this work. This distinction has to do with whether causal relationships have “material continuity,” which refers to the reliable movement of material from cause to effect. This paper provides an analysis of material continuity and argues that causal relationships with this feature are associated with a unique explanatory perspective, are studied with distinct causal (...)
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  12.  94
    Causation in Neuroscience: Keeping Mechanism Meaningful.Lauren N. Ross & Dani Bassett - 2024 - Nature Reviews Neuroscience 25:81-90.
    A fundamental goal of research in neuroscience is to uncover the causal structure of the brain. This focus on causation makes sense, because causal information can provide explanations of brain function and identify reliable targets with which to understand cognitive function and prevent or change neurological conditions and psychiatric disorders. In this research, one of the most frequently used causal concepts is ‘mechanism’ — this is seen in the literature and language of the field, in grant and funding inquiries that (...)
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  13.  63
    The doctrine of specific etiology.Lauren N. Ross - 2018 - Biology and Philosophy 33 (5-6):37.
    Modern medicine is often said to have originated with nineteenth century germ theory, which attributed diseases to bacterial contagions. The success of this theory is often associated with an underlying principle referred to as the “doctrine of specific etiology”. This doctrine refers to specificity at the level of disease causation or etiology. While the importance of this doctrine is frequently emphasized in the philosophical, historical, and medical literature, these sources lack a clear account of the types of specificity that it (...)
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  14. Causal explanation and the periodic table.Lauren N. Ross - 2018 - Synthese 198 (1):79-103.
    The periodic table represents and organizes all known chemical elements on the basis of their properties. While the importance of this table in chemistry is uncontroversial, the role that it plays in scientific reasoning remains heavily disputed. Many philosophers deny the explanatory role of the table and insist that it is “merely” classificatory (Shapere, in F. Suppe (Ed.) The structure of scientific theories, University of Illinois Press, Illinois, 1977; Scerri in Erkenntnis 47:229–243, 1997). In particular, it has been claimed that (...)
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  15.  45
    Tracers in neuroscience: Causation, constraints, and connectivity.Lauren N. Ross - 2021 - Synthese 199 (1-2):4077-4095.
    This paper examines tracer techniques in neuroscience, which are used to identify neural connections in the brain and nervous system. These connections capture a type of “structural connectivity” that is expected to inform our understanding of the functional nature of these tissues. This is due to the fact that neural connectivity constrains the flow of signal propagation, which is a type of causal process in neurons. This work explores how tracers are used to identify causal information, what standards they are (...)
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  16.  19
    The explanatory nature of constraints: Law-based, mathematical, and causal.Lauren N. Ross - 2023 - Synthese 202 (2):1-19.
    This paper provides an analysis of explanatory constraints and their role in scientific explanation. This analysis clarifies main characteristics of explanatory constraints, ways in which they differ from “standard” explanatory factors, and the unique roles they play in scientific explanation. While current philosophical work appreciates two main types of explanatory constraints, this paper suggests a new taxonomy: law-based constraints, mathematical constraints, and causal constraints. This classification helps capture unique features of constraint types, the different roles they play in explanation, and (...)
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  17.  16
    Polygene risk scores and randomized experiments.Lauren N. Ross, Kenneth S. Kendler & James F. Woodward - 2023 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 46:e198.
    We explore Madole & Harden's (2022) suggestion that single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)/trait correlations are analogous to randomized experiments and thus can be given a causal interpretation.
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  18.  14
    Correction to: Causes with material continuity.Lauren N. Ross - 2022 - Biology and Philosophy 37 (2):1-1.
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