Emergence, Closure and Inter-level Causation in Biological Systems

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Erkenntnis, ISSN: 0165-0106, Vol: 78, Issue: S2, Page: 153-178

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Mossio, Matteo; Bich, Leonardo; Moreno, Alvaro
Springer Nature; Springer (Springer Science+Business Media B.V.)
Arts and Humanities; Mathematics
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In this paper, we advocate the idea that an adequate explanation of biological systems requires appealing to organizational closure as an emergent causal regime. We first develop a theoretical justification of emergence in terms of relatedness, by arguing that configurations, because of the relatedness among their constituents, possess ontologically irreducible properties, providing them with distinctive causal powers. We then focus on those emergent causal powers exerted as constraints, and we claim that biological systems crucially differ from other natural systems in that they realize a closure of constraints, i.e. a second-order emergent regime of causation such that the constituents, each of them acting as a constraint, realize a mutual dependence among them, and are collectively able to self-maintain. Lastly, we claim that closure can be justifiably taken as an emergent regime of causation, without admitting that it inherently involves whole-parts causation, which would require to commit to stronger ontological and epistemological assumptions. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.