Biology & Philosophy

, 34:50 | Cite as

Further clarification on permissive and instructive causes

  • Brett CalcottEmail author


I respond to recent criticism of my analysis of the permissive-instructive distinction and outline problems with the alternative analysis on offer. Amongst other problems, I argue that the use of formal measures is unclear and unmotivated, that the distinction is conflated with others that are not equivalent, and that no good reasons are provided for thinking the alternative model or formal measure tracks what biologists are interested in. I also clarify my own analysis where it has been misunderstood or ignored.


Permissive Instructive Specificity Information Causation Development 



The initial ideas for much of this work occurred during my time in the Theory and Method in Biosciences group at the University of Sydney with Paul Griffiths, Arnaud Pocheville, and Karola Stotz, where funding was provided by Swansea University Templeton World Charity Foundation. Many thanks to Maureen O’Malley and Emily Parke for reading and commenting on drafts.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Charles Perkins CentreThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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