Repository | Book | Chapter


(2014) New directions in the philosophy of science, Dordrecht, Springer.

What counts as causation in physics and biology?

Jan Faye

pp. 173-189

The sense of causality is something we have inherited from our long-gone ancestors. Today we know that many higher animals, besides Homo sapiens, are capable of causal understanding. In the paper I give some examples of how birds and animals have an embodied insight in causal processes, and I discuss what we can learn from them about our own causal intuitions. Next, I argue that these intuitions determine the criteria by which we are able to decide what counts as causes in physics or biology. Hence I try to give a naturalistic account of our concept of causality. However, when it comes to explanations in the sciences I make a pragmatic distinction between causes and causal processes. I do so by holding that causes are external to a particular system whereas causal processes are internal to a particular system. But at the same time I hold that how we divide between system and sub-system depends on the research problems we are interested in and therefore on the type of explanation-seeking questions we seek to answer. Finally, I discuss emergence in connection with System biology and causation.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-04382-1_12

Full citation:

Faye, J. (2014)., What counts as causation in physics and biology?, in D. Dieks, S. Hartmann, T. Uebel, M. Weber & M. C. Galavotti (eds.), New directions in the philosophy of science, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 173-189.

This document is unfortunately not available for download at the moment.