Beyond reduction and pluralism: Toward an epistemology of explanatory integration in biology

Erkenntnis 73 (3):295-311 (2010)
Abstract
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. Solving a complex problem need not require theoretical unification or the stable synthesis of different biological fields, as items of knowledge from traditional disciplines can be related solely for the purposes of a specific problem. Apart from the development of genuine interfield theories, successful integration can be effected by smaller epistemic units (concepts, methods, explanations) being linked. Unification or integration is not an aim in itself, but needed for the aim of solving a particular scientific problem, where the problem's nature determines the kind of intellectual integration required.
Keywords Philosophy   Logic   Ethics   Ontology   Epistemology   Philosophy
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Citations of this work BETA
Ingo Brigandt (2013). Systems Biology and the Integration of Mechanistic Explanation and Mathematical Explanation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):477-492.
William Bechtel (2013). From Molecules to Behavior and the Clinic: Integration in Chronobiology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 44 (4):493-502.
Sabina Leonelli (2013). Integrating Data to Acquire New Knowledge: Three Modes of Integration in Plant Science. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):503-514.
Alan C. Love & Gary L. Lugar (2013). Dimensions of Integration in Interdisciplinary Explanations of the Origin of Evolutionary Novelty. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):537-550.

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