Tuesday, 30 October 2007
Causation in Biology: Stability, Specificity, and the Choice of Levels of Explanation
James Woodward , California Institute of Technology
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning
Abstract: Philosophical discussion of causation has often tended to focus, understandably enough, on finding criteria that distinguish causal from non-causal relationships. There is, however, another project, also belonging to the philosophy of causation, that has received somewhat less attention. This is the project of elucidating and understanding the basis for various distinctions that we (both ordinary folk and scientists) make among casual relationships. My talk is intended as a contribution to this second project. In particular, I will focus on certain causal concepts that are used to mark distinctions among causal relationships in biological contexts; these include the notions of stability or non-contingency of association, causal specificity, and proportionality. All are linked to finding the right "level" of causal analysis or explanation.