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The Relation between Kin and Multi-level Selection: An Approach Using Causal Graphs

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-470
Number of pages36
JournalBritish Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Journal issue2
Early online date20 Jan 2015
StatePublished - Jun 2016


Kin selection and multilevel selection are alternative approaches for studying the evolution of social behaviour, the relation between which has long been a source of controversy. Many recent theorists regard the two approaches as ultimately equivalent, on the grounds that gene frequency change can be correctly expressed using either. However, this shows only that the two are formally equivalent, not that they offer equally good causal representations of the evolutionary process. This article articulates the notion of an ‘adequate causal representation’ using causal graphs, and then seeks to identify circumstances under which kin and multilevel selection do and do not satisfy the test of causal adequacy.

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    Rights statement: This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science following peer review. The version of record Brit. J. Phil. Sci. 0 (2015), 1–36 is available online at:

    Accepted author manuscript, 498 KB, PDF-document


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