Chemical arbitrariness and the causal role of molecular adapters

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Abstract
Jacques Monod (1971) argued that certain molecular processes rely critically on the property of chemical arbitrariness, which he claimed allows those processes to “transcend the laws of chemistry”. It seems natural, as some philosophers have done, to interpret this in modal terms: a biological relationship is chemically arbitrary if it is possible, within the constraints of chemical “law”, for that relationship to have been otherwise than it is. But while modality is certainly important for understanding chemical arbitrariness, understanding its biological role also requires an account of the concrete causal-functional features that distinguish arbitrary from non-arbitrary phenomena. In this paper I elaborate on this under-emphasised aspect by offering a general account of these features: arbitrary relations are instantiated by mechanisms that involve molecular adapters, which causally couple two properties or processes which would otherwise be uncorrelated. Additionally, adapters work by acting as intermediate rather than cooperating causes
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Archival date: 2020-07-10
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