No, it doesn't. That misuses the word "cause". The "activity" you are abstracting is either a higher level phenomenon, or not a "cause" at that higher level. What you seek is not cause and effect, but consistency, between levels. And you seek it in both directions - the behavior and properties you assign to the lower levels must agree with those you have previously observed at the higher, as well as the other way around. Substrate does not cause pattern, is the observation. It is essentially tautological, gaining meaning only when physical observations of substrates and higher level patterns are made, and people set out to reason about them. Water molecules do not cause ocean waves, for example (not even the oceans in the first place). If you investigate the cause(s) of ocean waves, you will investigate things like speed and temperature and density and depth and duration and so forth, in the water and the air and any landforms and so forth - higher level patterns, capable of being causes of higher level patterns such as waves. You probably will not make a single measurement of any individual water, air, or ground molecules, their interactions etc. No reason to - you are looking for causes at the wave level. Not "irrelevant" - substrates inform, constrain, demarcate boundaries and limits by their extent and properties, etc. Theories of the higher level patterns must be consistent with those of the substrate - and, critically, vice versa. The physical junctions of a chip are not irrelevant to the information it carries - they just do not cause the patterns of information carried on that chip. They do not cause, at that level. There is no single level at which all things operate. Did you mean "each thing"? So there is no bigger picture involved - we are discussing free will and its cause/effect interactions as the highest level of pattern we can handle. Sounds reasonable, for the moment. Can we stipulate that the substrate would be the constituent patterns of neural firing in the brain, whose substrate would be the individual neuronal firings?