Science without reduction

Inquiry 16 (1-4):16 – 94 (1973)
Abstract
The aim of this essay is a criticism of reductionism ? both in its ?static? interpretation (usually referred to as the layer model or level?picture of science) and in its ?dynamic? interpretation (as a theory of the growth of scientific knowledge), with emphasis on the latter ? from the point of view of Popperian fallibilism and Feyerabendian pluralism, but without being committed to the idiosyncrasies of these standpoints. In both aspects of criticism, the rejection is based on the proposal of a global alternative. Hummell and Opp's research programme for the reduction of sociology to psychology is used as a starting?point and taken as the primary object of criticism. Following the introductory Section I, Section II analyses the three crucial notions of Hummell and Opp's research programme ? their explications of the notions of ?sociology?, ?psychology? and the concept of reduction itself ? and criticizes the authors? deficient ?logic of reduction?. Although the ?local? shortcomings of our authors? ?logic of reduction? do not affect reductionism as such, i.e. logically sound versions of reductionism as devised by Kemeny, Nagel, Oppenheim, Putnam, Woodger et al., it is argued that the logical soundness of sophisticated reductionism cannot compensate for its additional epistemological and methodological deficiencies. Section III analyses the ?dynamic? interpretation of reductionism as a particular developmental pattern of scientific growth. It is argued that even reductionism at its best can produce only cumulative progress, thus ?a priori? excluding scientific revolutions which are inevitably counter?inductive as well as counter?reductive. Section IV discusses the philosophical background of modern reductionism, and examines the effects both of reductionism and of anti?reductionistic pluralism on the autonomy of scientific fields. It is argued that pluralistic anti?reductionism undermines spurious claims for autonomy much more effectively than reductionism. As a ?local? improvement of the reductionistic research programme, the replacement of the predominant one?way reductionism by a less restrictive many?way reductionism is proposed. It is argued that the appropriate treatment for an allegedly backward science (say sociology) is not its reduction to an allegedly more advanced science (say psychology) but its non?reductive replacement by new theories (of the same or of another field) that do not incorporate the older ones. As a ?global? alternative to the reduction of sociology to psychology, the frontier?crossing direct application of psychological theories to sociological phenomena is proposed. A plea is made for a pluralistic science without reduction, based on intra? and interscientific criticism as the proper method for the advancement of knowledge
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References found in this work BETA
Paul Benacerraf (1965). What Numbers Could Not Be. Philosophical Review 74 (1):47-73.

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