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Causal Selection and the Pathway Concept

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Abstract

Most philosophical work on causal selection examines the selection of single causes and aims to clarify what grounds, if any, justify this selection. Such analyses overlook the fact that in scientific contexts multiple factors are often selected as the important causes of some outcome. This analysis examines a multicausal case in which factors in causal pathways are selected in biological explanations. This work provides a novel analysis of the pathway concept, its role in causal selection, and the rationale behind this selection. It is argued that this rationale is guided by principled considerations, which have been overlooked in the extant literature.

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Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Footnotes

I would like to thank Jim Woodward, Ken Schaffner, Ken Waters, Marcel Weber, Marie Kaiser, Oliver Lean, Brian Hanley, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful feedback on this article. Work on this project was supported by the Philosophy Department at the University of Calgary and a grant from the John Templeton Foundation (ID 50191).

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