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Are Higher Mechanistic Levels Causally Autonomous?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022


This article provides a detailed analysis and explores the prospects of the arguments for higher-level causal autonomy available for the proponents of the mechanistic framework. Three different arguments (context based, organization based, and constraint based) are distinguished. After clarifying previously raised worries with regard to the first two arguments, the article focuses on the newest version of the third argument that has recently been revived by William Bechtel. By using Bechtel’s own case study, it is shown that not even reference to constraints can establish the causal autonomy of higher mechanistic levels.

Research Article
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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We would like to thank Lise Marie Andersen, Markus Eronen, Lena Kästner, and Beate Krickel for their insightful comments on earlier versions of this article. Funding for this research was provided by the Research Foundation—Flanders (postdoctoral fellowship 1.2.B39.14N to Peter Fazekas).


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