Agency, Substance Causation, and Top-Down Causation

Helen Steward

in A Metaphysics for Freedom

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199552054
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738838 | DOI:
Agency, Substance Causation, and Top-Down Causation

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In this chapter, it is explained in what sense the book’s view of agency is, and in what sense it is not, a version of agent causationism. The chapter responds to certain criticisms of agent causationism and it is argued against some critics of agent causationism (e.g. Clarke) that there need be nothing problematic or incoherent about the very idea of substance causation. It is conceded, however, that there is a very difficult issue to be faced about how the causation of effects by a complex, highly organized agent such as an animal could fail to reduce to causation of effects by the parts of that same animal. The second part of the chapter contains a discussion of the phenomenon of top-down causation, in which it is suggested that the key to the solution of this problem may lie with the idea of coincidence.

Keywords: agency; agent causation; Clarke; substance causation; causation; top-down causation; coincidence

Chapter.  29541 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Metaphysics

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