About this topic
Summary Philosophers across the 'high-level' sciences, e.g., all sciences except fundamental physics, have asked how the events and processes studied and explained in a particular science relate to those at 'lower levels.' This section addresses this broader topic in the philosophy of science via examples from biology in particular, considering whether biological phenomena--from ecology, evolution, physiology, and genetics--reduce to other sciences--either subfields of biology itself or those outside of it. Philosophers of biology usually understand reductionism in explanatory--rather than syntactic--terms.
  Show all references
Related categories
Subcategories:
50 found
Search inside:
(import / add options)   Sort by:
Material to categorize
  1. Paul S. Agutter, P. Colm Malone & Denys N. Wheatley (2000). Diffusion Theory in Biology: A Relic of Mechanistic Materialism. [REVIEW] Journal of the History of Biology 33 (1):71 - 111.
    Diffusion theory explains in physical terms how materials move through a medium, e.g. water or a biological fluid. There are strong and widely acknowledged grounds for doubting the applicability of this theory in biology, although it continues to be accepted almost uncritically and taught as a basis of both biology and medicine. Our principal aim is to explore how this situation arose and has been allowed to continue seemingly unchallenged for more than 150 years. The main shortcomings of diffusion theory (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (6 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  2. Francisco J. Ayala (1989). Thermodynamics, Information, and Evolution: The Problem of Reductionism. [REVIEW] History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 11 (1):115 - 120.
  3. John Bickle (1992). Revisionary Physicalism. Biology and Philosophy 7 (4):411-30.
    The focus of much recent debate between realists and eliminativists about the propositional attitudes obscures the fact that a spectrum of positions lies between these celebrated extremes. Appealing to an influential theoretical development in cognitive neurobiology, I argue that there is reason to expect such an “intermediate” outcome. The ontology that emerges is a revisionary physicalism. The argument draws lessons about revisionistic reductions from an important historical example, the reduction of equilibrium thermodynamics to statistical mechanics, and applies them to the (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (6 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  4. Robert N. Brandon (2010). A Non-Newtonian Newtonian Model of Evolution: The ZFEL View. Philosophy of Science 77 (5):702-715.
  5. Ingo Brigandt (2010). Beyond Reduction and Pluralism: Toward an Epistemology of Explanatory Integration in Biology. [REVIEW] Erkenntnis 73 (3):295-311.
    The paper works towards an account of explanatory integration in biology, using as a case study explanations of the evolutionary origin of novelties-a problem requiring the integration of several biological fields and approaches. In contrast to the idea that fields studying lower level phenomena are always more fundamental in explanations, I argue that the particular combination of disciplines and theoretical approaches needed to address a complex biological problem and which among them is explanatorily more fundamental varies with the problem pursued. (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (9 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  6. Megan Delehanty (2005). Emergent Properties and the Context Objection to Reduction. Biology and Philosophy 20 (4):715-734.
    Reductionism is a central issue in the philosophy of biology. One common objection to reduction is that molecular explanation requires reference to higher-level properties, which I refer to as the context objection. I respond to this objection by arguing that a well-articulated notion of a mechanism and what I term mechanism extension enables one to accommodate the context-dependence of biological processes within a reductive explanation. The existence of emergent features in the context could be raised as an objection to (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (5 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  7. Eric Desjardins (2011). Reflections on Path Dependence and Irreversibility: Lessons From Evolutionary Biology. Philosophy of Science 78 (5):724-738.
  8. J. Dupre (1994). Against Scientific Imperialism. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1994:374 - 381.
    Most discussion of the unity of science has concerned what might be called vertical relations between theories: the reducibility of biology to chemistry, or chemistry to physics, and so on. In this paper I shall be concerned rather with horizontal relations, that is to say, with theories of different kinds that deal with objects at the same structural level. Whereas the former, vertical, conception of unity through reduction has come under a good deal of criticism recently (see, e.g., Dupré 1993), (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (5 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  9. John Dupré (2010). It is Not Possible to Reduce Biological Explanations to Explanations in Chemistry and/or Physics. In Francisco José Ayala & Robert Arp (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology. Wiley-Blackwell Pub..
    Remove from this list |
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  10. Walter M. Elsasser (1958). The Physical Foundation of Biology. New York, Pergamon Press.
    Remove from this list |
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  11. E. Ernst (1976). Biology Without Mysticism: A Biophysicist's Reflections. Akadémiai Kiadó.
    Remove from this list |
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  12. Michael Esfeld (2011). Conservative Reductionism. Routledge.
    The dilemma of functionalism -- The metaphysics of causal structures -- The theory of evolution and causal structures in biology -- Case study: classical and molecular genetics -- Conservative functional reduction.
    Remove from this list |
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  13. James Griesemer (2013). Formalization and the Meaning of “Theory” in the Inexact Biological Sciences. Biological Theory 7 (4):298-310.
    Exact sciences are described as sciences whose theories are formalized. These are contrasted to inexact sciences, whose theories are not formalized. Formalization is described as a broader category than mathematization, involving any form/content distinction allowing forms, e.g., as represented in theoretical models, to be studied independently of the empirical content of a subject-matter domain. Exactness is a practice depending on the use of theories to control subject-matter domains and to align theoretical with empirical models and not merely a state of (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (3 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  14. Emily Grosholz (2011). Studying Populations Without Molecular Biology: Aster Models and a New Argument Against Reductionism. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 42 (2):246-251.
    Remove from this list | Direct download (3 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  15. Anna Ijjas (2013). Quantum Aspects of Life: Relating Evolutionary Biology with Theology Via Modern Physics. Zygon 48 (1):60-76.
    In the present paper, I shall argue that quantum theory can contribute to reconciling evolutionary biology with the creation hypothesis. After giving a careful definition of the theological problem, I will, in a first step, formulate necessary conditions for the compatibility of evolutionary theory and the creation hypothesis. In a second step, I will show how quantum theory can contribute to fulfilling these conditions. More precisely, I claim that (1) quantum probabilities are best understood in terms of ontological indeterminism, but (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (6 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  16. Robert Kaspar (1980). Naturgesetz, Kausalität Und Induktion. Ein Beitrag Zur Theoretischen Biologie. Acta Biotheoretica 29 (3-4).
    According to the situation of recent biology it seems to be necessary to continue the theoretical foundation of this science, and especially a foundation beyond physics and metaphysics. The preconditions of such a project are given with the problems of causality, natural law and induction. The discussion of these subjects in modern philosophy of science did not bring useful results, for philosophy of science itself is orientated by physics. On the other hand even the history of these problems in biology (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  17. Evelyn Fox Keller (2010). It is Possible to Reduce Biological Explanations to Explanations in Chemistry and/or Physics. In Francisco José Ayala & Robert Arp (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology. Wiley-Blackwell Pub..
    Remove from this list | Direct download (2 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  18. Jaegwon Kim (2005). Laws, Causation, and Explanation in the Special Sciences. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 27 (3/4):325 - 338.
    There is the general philosophical question concerning the relationship between physics, which is often taken to be our fundamental and all-encompassing science, on one hand and the special sciences, such as biology and psychology, each of which deals with phenomena in some specially restricted domain, on the other. This paper deals with a narrower question: Are there laws in the special sciences, laws like those we find, or expect to find, in basic physics? Three arguments that are intended to show (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (4 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  19. James Maclaurin (2011). Against Reduction. Biology and Philosophy 26 (1):151-158.
    In Molecular Models: Philosophical Papers on Molecular Biology, Sahotra Sarkar presents a historical and philosophical analysis of four important themes in philosophy of science that have been influenced by discoveries in molecular biology. These are: reduction, function, information and directed mutation. I argue that there is an important difference between the cases of function and information and the more complex case of scientific reduction. In the former cases it makes sense to taxonomise important variations in scientific and philosophical usage of (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (7 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  20. Alfredo Pérez Martínez (2009). Emergence : Between Reductive and Non Reductive Explanations : Does It Make Sense? In González Recio & José Luis (eds.), Philosophical Essays on Physics and Biology. G. Olms.
    Remove from this list |
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  21. Ernst Mayr (2007). What Makes Biology Unique?: Considerations on the Autonomy of a Scientific Discipline. Cambridge University Press.
    This collection of revised and new essays argues that biology is an autonomous science rather than a branch of the physical sciences. Ernst Mayr, widely considered the most eminent evolutionary biologist of the 20th century, offers insights on the history of evolutionary thought, critiques the conditions of philosophy to the science of biology, and comments on several of the major developments in evolutionary theory. Notably, Mayr explains that Darwin's theory of evolution is actually five separate theories, each with its own (...)
    Remove from this list |
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  22. Susan Sauve Meyer (1992). Aristotle, Teleology, and Reduction. Philosophical Review 101 (4):791-825.
  23. David Papineau (1992). Irreducibility and Teleology. In David Charles & Kathleen Lennon (eds.), Reduction, Explanation and Realism. Oxford University Press.
    Remove from this list |
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  24. Ángeles Rincón, Juan Antonio Alonso & Luis Sanz (2009). Reduction of Supercritical Multiregional Stochastic Models with Fast Migration. Acta Biotheoretica 57 (4).
    In this work we study the behavior of a time discrete multiregional stochastic model for a population structured in age classes and spread out in different spatial patches between which individuals can migrate. The dynamics of the population is controlled both by reproduction-survival and by migration. These processes take place at different time scales in the sense of the latter being much faster than the former. We incorporate the effect of demographic stochasticity into the population, which results in both dynamics (...)
    Remove from this list |
    Translate to English
    | Direct download  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  25. Nils Roll-Hansen (1978). Drosophila Genetics: A Reductionist Research Program. Journal of the History of Biology 11 (1):159 - 210.
    Remove from this list | Direct download (2 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  26. Alicia Juarrero Roqué (1981). Dispositions, Teleology and Reductionism. Philosophical Topics 12 (3):153-165.
    Remove from this list | Direct download (4 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  27. Steven P. R. Rose (1998). Lifelines: Biology Beyond Determinism. Oxford University Press.
    Reductionism--understanding complex processes by breaking them into simpler elements--dominates scientific thinking around the world and has certainly proved a powerful tool, leading to major discoveries in every field of science. But reductionism can be taken too far, especially in the life sciences, where sociobiological thinking has bordered on biological determinism. Thus popular science writers such as Richard Dawkins, author of the highly influential The Selfish Gene, can write that human beings are just "robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  28. Alexander Rosenberg (2007). Reductionism (and Antireductionism) in Biology. In David L. Hull & Michael Ruse (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology. Cambridge University Press. 349--368.
    Remove from this list | Direct download (2 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  29. William A. Rottschaefer (2008). Biological and Physicochemical Explanations in Experimental Biology. Biological Theory 3 (4):380-390.
  30. Darrell P. Rowbottom (2009). Models in Biology and Physics: What's the Difference? Foundations of Science 14 (4):281-294.
    In Making Sense of Life , Keller emphasizes several differences between biology and physics. Her analysis focuses on significant ways in which modelling practices in some areas of biology, especially developmental biology, differ from those of the physical sciences. She suggests that natural models and modelling by homology play a central role in the former but not the latter. In this paper, I focus instead on those practices that are importantly similar, from the point of view of epistemology and cognitive (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (4 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  31. Suzannah Rutherford (2011). Toward a Physical Biology. Bioessays 33 (6):397-397.
    Remove from this list | Direct download (4 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  32. Christian Sachse (2005). Reduction of Biological Properties by Means of Functional Sub-Types. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 27 (3/4):435 - 449.
    The general aim of this paper is to propose a reductionist strategy to higher-level property types. Starting from a common ground in the philosophy of science, I shall elaborate on possible realizer differences of higher-level property types. Because of the realizer types' causal heterogeneity, an introduction of functional sub-types of higher-level properties will be suggested. Each higher-level functional sub-type corresponds to one realizer type. This means that there is the theoretical possibility to reach some kind of type-identity and this opens (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (3 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  33. Sahotra Sarkar (1990). On Adaptation: A Reduction of the Kauffman-Levin Model to a Problem in Graph Theory and its Consequences. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 5 (2):127-148.
    It is shown that complex adaptations are best modelled as discrete processes represented on directed weighted graphs. Such a representation captures the idea that problems of adaptation in evolutionary biology are problems in a discrete space, something that the conventional representations using continuous adaptive landscapes does not. Further, this representation allows the utilization of well-known algorithms for the computation of several biologically interesting results such as the accessibility of one allele from another by a specified number of point mutations, the (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (5 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  34. Daniel Steel (2004). Can a Reductionist Be a Pluralist? Biology and Philosophy 19 (1):55-73.
    Pluralism is often put forth as a counter-position to reductionism. In this essay, I argue that reductionism and pluralism are in fact consistent. I propose that there are several potential goals for reductions and that the proper form of a reduction should be considered in tandem with the goal that it aims to achieve. This insight provides a basis for clarifying what version(s) of reductionism are currently defended, for explicating the notion of a fundamental level of explanation, and for showing (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (7 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  35. W. J. Van Der Steen (1975). Some Comments on “Reduction”. Acta Biotheoretica 24 (3-4).
    Remove from this list | Direct download  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  36. Marcel Weber (2008). Critical Notice: Darwinian Reductionism. Biology and Philosophy 23 (1):143-152.
    Remove from this list | Direct download (5 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  37. G. Rickey Welch (1989). Of Men, Molecules, and (Ir)Reducibility. Bioessays 11 (6):187-190.
    Remove from this list | Direct download (3 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  38. Hub Zwart (2005). Comparative Epistemology: Contours of a Research Program. Acta Biotheoretica 53 (2).
    This article addresses the question whether and how literary documents can be used to further our understanding of a number of key issues on the agenda of the philosophy of biology such as “complexity” and “reductionism”. Kant already granted a certain respectability to aesthetical experiences of nature in his third Critique. Subsequently, the philosophical movement known as phenomenology often used literary sources and literary techniques to criticize and question mainstream laboratory science. The article discusses a number of literary documents, from (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
Reduction in Biology, Misc
  1. Kevin S. Amidon (2008). Adolf Meyer-Abich, Holism, and the Negotiation of Theoretical Biology. Biological Theory 3 (4):357-370.
  2. Michal Arciszewski (2013). Reducing the Dauer Larva: Molecular Models of Biological Phenomena in Caenorhabditis Elegans Research. Synthese 190 (18):4155-4179.
    One important aspect of biological explanation is detailed causal modeling of particular phenomena in limited experimental background conditions. Recognising this allows one to appreciate that a sufficient condition for a reduction in biology is a molecular model of (1) only the demonstrated causal parameters of a biological model and (2) only within a replicable experimental background. These identities—which are ubiquitous in biology and form the basis of ruthless reductions (Bickle, Philosophy and neuroscience: a ruthlessly reductive account, 2003)—are criticised as merely (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (4 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  3. Francisco Ayala (2004). What Makes Biology Unique? Ernst Mayr at 100. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 26 (2):243 - 256.
  4. Tudor Baetu (2012). Emergence, Therefore Antireductionism? A Critique of Emergent Antireductionism. Biology and Philosophy 27 (3):433-448.
    Emergent antireductionism in biological sciences states that even though all living cells and organisms are composed of molecules, molecular wholes are characterized by emergent properties that can only be understood from the perspective of cellular and organismal levels of composition. Thus, an emergence claim (molecular wholes are characterized by emergent properties) is thought to support a form of antireductionism (properties of higher-level molecular wholes can only be understood by taking into account concepts, theories and explanations dealing with higher-level entities). I (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (5 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  5. Fred Boogerd, Frank Bruggeman, Catholijn Jonker, Huib Looren de Jong, Allard Tamminga, Jan Treur, Hans Westerhoff & Wouter Wijngaards (2002). Inter-Level Relations in Computer Science, Biology, and Psychology. Philosophical Psychology 15 (4):463–471.
    Investigations into inter-level relations in computer science, biology and psychology call for an *empirical* turn in the philosophy of mind. Rather than concentrate on *a priori* discussions of inter-level relations between 'completed' sciences, a case is made for the actual study of the way inter-level relations grow out of the developing sciences. Thus, philosophical inquiries will be made more relevant to the sciences, and, more importantly, philosophical accounts of inter-level relations will be testable by confronting them with what really happens (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (7 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  6. Ingo Brigandt & Alan Love, Reductionism in Biology. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Reductionism encompasses a set of ontological, epistemological, and methodological claims about the relation of different scientific domains. The basic question of reduction is whether the properties, concepts, explanations, or methods from one scientific domain (typically at higher levels of organization) can be deduced from or explained by the properties, concepts, explanations, or methods from another domain of science (typically one about lower levels of organization). Reduction is germane to a variety of issues in philosophy of science, including the structure of (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (2 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  7. Greg Frost-Arnold (2004). How to Be an Anti-Reductionist About Developmental Biology: Response to Laubichler and Wagner. Biology and Philosophy 19 (1):75-91.
    Alexander Rosenberg recently claimed (1997) that developmental biology is currently being reduced to molecular biology. cite several concrete biological examples that are intended to impugn Rosenberg's claim. I first argue that although Laubichler and Wagner's examples would refute a very strong reductionism, a more moderate reductionism would escape their attacks. Next, taking my cue from the antireductionist's perennial stress on the importance of spatial organization, I describe one form an empirical finding that refutes this moderate reductionism would take. Finally, I (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (9 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  8. Manfred D. Laubichler & Günter P. Wagner (2001). How Molecular is Molecular Developmental Biology? A Reply to Alex Rosenberg's Reductionism Redux: Computing the Embryo. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 16 (1):53-68.
    This paper argues in defense of theanti-reductionist consensus in the philosophy ofbiology. More specifically, it takes issues with AlexRosenberg's recent challenge of this position. Weargue that the results of modern developmentalgenetics rather than eliminating the need forfunctional kinds in explanations of developmentactually reinforce their importance.
    Remove from this list | Direct download (5 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  9. Christophe Malaterre (2010). Les origines de la vie : émergence ou explication réductive ? Hermann.
    La vie est-elle un phénomène émergent ? Traduit-elle l'apparition de propriétés nouvelles au niveau d'un tout, qui seraient irréductibles aux propriétés et à l'organisation des composants de ce tout, ou encore imprédictibles à partir de ces mêmes éléments ? Développées à la charnière des XIXe et XXe siècles comme alternative aux deux approches antinomiques du vivant que sont le vitalisme et le mécanisme, la notion philosophique d'émergence connait aujourd'hui de nouveaux développements : avec la prise de conscience de la complexité (...)
    Remove from this list |
    Translate to English
    | Direct download  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  10. Sahotra Sarkar (1992). Models of Reduction and Categories of Reductionism. Synthese 91 (3):167-94.
    A classification of models of reduction into three categories — theory reductionism, explanatory reductionism, and constitutive reductionism — is presented. It is shown that this classification helps clarify the relations between various explications of reduction that have been offered in the past, especially if a distinction is maintained between the various epistemological and ontological issues that arise. A relatively new model of explanatory reduction, one that emphasizes that reduction is the explanation of a whole in terms of its parts is (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (6 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  11. Michael Strevens, Explanatory Autonomy and Explanatory Irreducibility.
    A powerful argument for anti-reductionism turns on the premise that the biological, behavioral, and social sciences are, in the way that they explain their characteristic subject matters, in some sense autonomous from physics. The argument is formulated and strengthened in this paper, and then undermined by showing that a reductionist account of explanation is not only consistent with, but provides a compelling account of, explanatory autonomy. Two kinds of explanatory abstraction, objective and contextual, play important roles in the story.
    Remove from this list |
    Translate to English
    | Direct download  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation  
  12. Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther (2011). Part-Whole Science. Synthese 178 (3):397-427.
    A scientific explanatory project, part-whole explanation, and a kind of science, part-whole science are premised on identifying, investigating, and using parts and wholes. In the biological sciences, mechanistic, structuralist, and historical explanations are part-whole explanations. Each expresses different norms, explananda, and aims. Each is associated with a distinct partitioning frame for abstracting kinds of parts. These three explanatory projects can be complemented in order to provide an integrative vision of the whole system, as is shown for a detailed case study: (...)
    Remove from this list | Direct download (6 more)  
     
    My bibliography  
     
    Export citation