The Physics of Downward Causation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


By tradition, physics is a strongly reductionist science. The problem of downward causation from the physicist's point of view is: How can wholes act causatively on parts if all interactions are local? From the viewpoint of a local theory, what is a 'whole' anyway, other than the sum of the parts? This chapter distinguishes between two types of downward causation. The first is whole-part causation, in which the behaviour of a part can be understood only by reference to the whole. The second, called level-entanglement, has to do with higher conceptual levels having causal efficacy over lower conceptual levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Re-Emergence of Emergence
Subtitle of host publicationThe Emergentist Hypothesis from Science to Religion
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191701351
ISBN (Print)9780199544318
StatePublished - Oct 3 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Downward causation
  • Level-entanglement
  • Reductionist science
  • Whole-part causation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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