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Constitutive Relevance, Mutual Manipulability, and Fat-Handedness

The first part of this article argues that if Craver’s ([2007a], [2007b]) popular mutual manipulability account (MM) of mechanistic constitution is embedded within Woodward’s ([2003]) interventionist theory of causation—for which it is explicitly designed—it either undermines the mechanistic research paradigm by entailing that there do not exist relationships of constitutive relevance, or it gives rise to the unwanted consequence that constitution is a form of causation. The second part shows how Woodward’s theory can be adapted in such a way that MM neither undermines the mechanistic paradigm nor reduces constitution to causation. However, it turns out that this modified theoretical embedding of MM makes it impossible to produce empirical evidence for constitutive relations. The article ends by suggesting an additional criterion—the fat-handedness criterion—which, when combined with MM generates indirect empirical evidence for constitutive relevance.


2Mechanisms and Constitutive Relevance

3Mutual Manipulability and Interventionism

4Modifying Interventionism