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Christophe Malaterre
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Many researchers consider cancer to have molecular causes, namely mutated genes that result in abnormal cell proliferation (e.g. Weinberg 1998); yet for others, the causes of cancer are to be found not at the molecular level but at the tissue level and carcinogenesis would consist in a disrupted tissue organization with downward causation effects on cells and cellular components (e.g. Sonnenschein & Soto 2008). In this contribution, I ponder how to make sense of such downward causation claims. Adopting a manipulationist account of causation (Woodward 2003), I propose a formal definition of downward causation, and discuss further requirements (in light of Baumgartner 2009). I then show that such an account cannot be mobilized in support of non-reductive physicalism (contrary to Raatikainen 2010). However, I also argue that such downward causation claims might point at particularly interesting dynamic properties of causal relationships that might prove salient in characterizing causal relationships (following Woodward 2010).

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