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Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?Philosophical and Neurobiological Perspectives on Moral Responsibility and Free Will$
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Nancey Murphy and Warren S. Brown

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199215393

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199215393.001.0001

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From Causal Reductionism to Self‐Directed Systems

From Causal Reductionism to Self‐Directed Systems

(p.42) 2 From Causal Reductionism to Self‐Directed Systems
Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?

Nancey Murphy (Contributor Webpage)

Warren S. Brown (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter criticizes overly-simple accounts of causal processes, particularly atomist-reductionism-determinism. Alternatively, a case is made for considering downward causation (the effect of the whole on its parts) as well as bottom-up causation (the effect of parts on the whole). Downward causation involves selection or constraint of lower-level causal processes on the basis of how those lower-level processes or entities fit into a broader (higher-level) causal system. Self-directed and self-causing systems are described as embodying downward causation in the form of systems operating on information and feedback, and describable in the terms of complex, nonlinear dynamical systems. Countenancing downward causation is not equivalent to denying (all) causal determinism; the lower-level variants may be produced either deterministically or randomly.

Keywords:   atomism, reductionism, determinism, downward causation, self-causing systems, dynamical systems, information, feedback

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