David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Noûs 46 (4):754-780 (2012)
I aim to reconcile two apparently conﬂicting theses: (a) Everything that can be explained, can be explained in purely physical terms, that is, using the machinery of fundamental physics, and (b) some properties that play an explanatory role in the higher level sciences are irreducible in the strong sense that they are physically undefinable: their nature cannot be described using the vocabulary of physics. I investigate the contribution that physically undefinable properties typically make to explanations in the high-level sciences, and I show that when they are explanatorily relevant, it is in virtue of their extension (or something close) alone. They are irreducible because physics cannot capture their nature; this is no obstacle, however, to physics' more or less capturing their extension, which is all that it need do to duplicate their explanatory power. In the course of the argument, I sketch the outlines of an account of the explanation of physically contingent regularities, such as the regularities found in most branches of biological inquiry, at the center of which is an account of the nature of contingent, empirical bridge principles.
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References found in this work BETA
Carl F. Craver (2007). Explaining the Brain: Mechanisms and the Mosaic Unity of Neuroscience. Oxford University Press, Clarendon Press.
Jaegwon Kim (1998). Mind in a Physical World: An Essay on the Mind-Body Problem and Mental Causation. MIT Press.
David K. Lewis (1973). Counterfactuals. Blackwell Publishers.
Michael Strevens (2008). Depth: An Account of Scientific Explanation. Harvard University Press.
John Dupré (1993). The Disorder of Things: Metaphysical Foundations of the Disunity of Science. Harvard University Press.
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