Explicating Top-­‐Down Causation Using Networks and Dynamics

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Bechtel, Williiam
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In many fields in the life sciences investigators refer to downward or top-down causal effects. Craver and Bechtel defended the view that such cases should be understood in terms of a constitution relation between levels in a mechanism and causation as solely an intra-level relation (occurring at any level). Craver and Bechtel, however, provided insufficient specification as to when entities constitute a higher-level mechanism. In this paper I appeal to graph-theoretic representations of networks that are now widely employed in systems biology and neuroscience to identify mechanisms with the modules that exhibit high clustering. As a result of the interconnections of nodes in these modules/mechanisms, they often exhibit complex dynamic behaviors that constrain how the individual components respond to external inputs, an important feature of cases viewed as involving top-down causation.