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Durham University

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Publication details for Professor Robert A. Barton

Dickins, T. & Barton, RA. (2013). Reciprocal causation and the proximate-ultimate distinction. Biology & Philosophy 28(5): 747-756.

Author(s) from Durham


Laland and colleagues have sought to challenge the proximate–ultimate distinction claiming that it imposes a unidirectional model of causation, is limited in its capacity to account for complex biological phenomena, and hinders progress in biology. In this article the core of their argument is critically analyzed. It is claimed that contrary to their claims Laland et al. rely upon the proximate–ultimate distinction to make their points and that their alternative conception of reciprocal causation refers to phenomena that were already accounted for by standard theory.