The limitations of Kim's reductive physicalism in accounting for living systems and an alternative nonreductionist ontology

Acta Biotheoretica 55 (3):243-267 (2007)
Jaegwon Kim’s exclusion argument is a general ontological argument, applicable to any properties deemed supervenient on a microproperty basis, including biological properties. It implies that the causal power of any higher-level property must be reducible to the subset of the causal powers of its lower-level properties. Moreover, as Kim’s recent version of the argument indicates, a higher-level property can be causally efficient only to the extent of the efficiency of its micro-basis. In response, I argue that the ontology that aims to capture experimentally based explanations of metabolic control systems and morphogenetic systems must involve causally relevant contextual properties. Such an ontology challenges the exclusiveness of micro-based causal efficiency that grounds Kim’s reductionism, since configurations themselves are inherently causally efficient constituents. I anticipate and respond to the reductionist’s objection that the nonreductionist ontology’s account of causes and inter-level causal relations is incoherent. I also argue that such an ontology is not open to Kim’s overdetermination objection.
Keywords reduction  emergence  biology  causation  downward causation  Jaegwon Kim
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DOI 10.1007/s10441-007-9014-9
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