David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Foundations of Science 16 (1):31-46 (2011)
Advancing the reductionist conviction that biology must be in agreement with the assumptions of reductive physicalism (the upward hierarchy of causal powers, the upward fixing of facts concerning biological levels) A. Rosenberg argues that downward causation is ontologically incoherent and that it comes into play only when we are ignorant of the details of biological phenomena. Moreover, in his view, a careful look at relevant details of biological explanations will reveal the basic molecular level that characterizes biological systems, defined by wholly physical properties, e.g., geometrical structures of molecular aggregates (cells). In response, we argue that contrary to his expectations one cannot infer reductionist assumptions even from detailed biological explanations that invoke the molecular level, as interlevel causal reciprocity is essential to these explanations. Recent very detailed explanations that concern the structure and function of chromatin—the intricacies of supposedly basic molecular level—demonstrate this. They show that what seem to be basic physical parameters extend into a more general biological context, thus rendering elusive the concepts of the basic level and causal hierarchy postulated by the reductionists. In fact, relevant phenomena are defined across levels by entangled, extended parameters. Nor can the biological context be explained away by basic physical parameters defining molecular level shaped by evolution as a physical process. Reductionists claim otherwise only because they overlook the evolutionary significance of initial conditions best defined in terms of extended biological parameters. Perhaps the reductionist assumptions (as well as assumptions that postulate any particular levels as causally fundamental) cannot be inferred from biological explanations because biology aims at manipulating organisms rather than producing explanations that meet the coherence requirements of general ontological models. Or possibly the assumptions of an ontology not based on the concept of causal powers stratified across levels can be inferred from biological explanations. The incoherence of downward causation is inevitable, given reductionist assumptions, but an ontological alternative might avoid this. We outline desiderata for the treatment of levels and properties that realize interlevel causation in such an ontology
|Keywords||Philosophy of biology Causation Ontology Reductionism Anti-Reductionism Molecular biology Cell biology|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
Charles Darwin (1883/1998). The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication. Johns Hopkins University Press.
Jaegwon Kim (1999). Making Sense of Emergence. Philosophical Studies 95 (1-2):3-36.
Jaegwon Kim (2005). Physicalism, or Something Near Enough. Princeton University Press.
Jaegwon Kim (1993). Supervenience and Mind. Cambridge University Press.
Philip Kitcher (1984). 1953 and All That. A Tale of Two Sciences. Philosophical Review 93 (3):335-373.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Similar books and articles
Sun Kyeong Yu (2008). Who's Afraid of Gory Details? Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 43:215-223.
Niall Shanks (2001). The Adaptive Radiation of Biological Explanation. Idealistic Studies 31 (2/3):155-168.
Slobodan Perovic (2007). The Limitations of Kim's Reductive Physicalism in Accounting for Living Systems and an Alternative Nonreductionist Ontology. Acta Biotheoretica 55 (3).
Tudor Baetu (2012). Emergence, Therefore Antireductionism? A Critique of Emergent Antireductionism. Biology and Philosophy 27 (3):433-448.
C. Kenneth Waters, Beyond Theoretical Reduction and Layer-Cake Antireduction: How DNA Retooled Genetics and Transformed Biological Practice.
Arciszewski Michal, Reducing the Dauer Larva: Molecular Models of Biological Phenomena in Caenorhabditis Elegans Research.
Alex Rosenberg (2001). Reductionism in a Historical Science. Philosophy of Science 68 (2):135-163.
Michal Arciszewski (2013). Reducing the Dauer Larva: Molecular Models of Biological Phenomena in Caenorhabditis Elegans Research. Synthese 190 (18):4155-4179.
Nagarjuna G. (forthcoming). Towards a Model of Life and Cognition. In B. V. Srikantan (ed.), Foundations of Science. Center for Studies in Civilizations.
Ron Sun, Andrew Coward & Michael J. Zenzen (2005). On Levels of Cognitive Modeling. Philosophical Psychology 18 (5):613-637.
Alexander Rueger (2001). Explanations at Multiple Levels. Minds and Machines 11 (4):503-520.
Joel Press (2009). Physical Explanations and Biological Explanations, Empirical Laws and a Priori Laws. Biology and Philosophy 24 (3):359-374.
Philippe Huneman (2010). Topological Explanations and Robustness in Biological Sciences. Synthese 177 (2):213-245.
Added to index2010-11-18
Total downloads45 ( #40,221 of 1,101,802 )
Recent downloads (6 months)5 ( #68,160 of 1,101,802 )
How can I increase my downloads?