Reductionism and its heuristics: Making methodological reductionism honest [Book Review]

Synthese 151 (3):445 - 475 (2006)
Methodological reductionists practice ‘wannabe reductionism’. They claim that one should pursue reductionism, but never propose how. I integrate two strains in prior work to do so. Three kinds of activities are pursued as “reductionist”. “Successional reduction” and inter-level mechanistic explanation are legitimate and powerful strategies. Eliminativism is generally ill-conceived. Specific problem-solving heuristics for constructing inter-level mechanistic explanations show why and when they can provide powerful and fruitful tools and insights, but sometimes lead to erroneous results. I show how traditional metaphysical approaches fail to engage how science is done. The methods used do so, and support a pragmatic and non-eliminativist realism.
Keywords Aggregativity  Biases  Eliminativism  Heuristics  Identification  Inter-level explanation  Localization  Mechanism  Methodological reductionism  Problem-solving  Wannabe reductionism
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Michael Baumgartner & Isabelle Drouet (2013). Identifying Intervention Variables. European Journal for Philosophy of Science 3 (2):183-205.
Shaun Le Boutillier (2013). Emergence and Reduction. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 43 (2):205-225.
Anya Plutynski (2013). Cancer and the Goals of Integration. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C (4):466-476.

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