Emergent properties and the context objection to reduction

Biology and Philosophy 20 (4):715-734 (2005)
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 the possibility of reduction via this strategy. I argue that this objection can be overcome by showing that there is no tenable argument for the existence of emergent properties that are not susceptible to a reductive explanation.
Keywords Context   Dictyostelium discoideum  Emergence  Mechanism  Reduction
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DOI 10.1007/s10539-004-2437-7
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Cory D. Wright (2012). Mechanistic Explanation Without the Ontic Conception. European Journal of Philosophy of Science 2 (3):375-394.
Olivier Sartenaer (forthcoming). Sixteen Years Later: Making Sense of Emergence (Again). Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie:1-25.

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