In debates between holism and reductionism in biology, from the early 20th century to more recent re-enactments involving genetic reductionism, developmental systems theory, or systems biology, the role of chance – the presence of theories invoking chance as a strong explanatory principle – is hardly ever acknowledged. Conversely, Darwinian models of chance and selection (Dennett 1995, Kupiec 1996, Kupiec 2009) sit awkwardly with reductionist and holistic concepts, which they alternately challenge or approve of. I suggest that the (...) juxtaposition of chance and the holism-reductionism pair (at multiple levels, ontological and methodological, pertaining to the vision of scientific practice as well as to the foundations of a vision of Nature, implicit or explicit) allows the theorist to shed some new light on these perennial tensions in the conceptualisation of Life. (shrink)
Ever since Darwin a great deal of the conceptual history of biology may be read as a struggle between two philosophical positions: reductionism and holism. On the one hand, we have the reductionist claim that evolution has to be understood in terms of changes at the fundamental causal level of the gene. As Richard Dawkins famously put it, organisms are just ‘lumbering robots’ in the service of their genetic masters. On the other hand, there is a long holistic (...) tradition that focuses on the complexity of developmental systems, on the non-linearity of gene– environment interactions, and on multi-level selective processes to argue that the full story of biology is a bit more complicated than that. Reductionism can marshal on its behalf the spectacular successes of genetics and molecular biology throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Holism has built on the development of entirely new disciplines and conceptual frameworks over the past few decades, including evo-devo and phenotypic plasticity. Yet, a number of biologists are still actively looking for a way out of the reductionism–holism counterposition, often mentioning the word ‘emergence’ as a way to deal with the conundrum. This paper briefly examines the philosophical history of the concept of emergence, distinguishes between epistemic and ontological accounts of it, and comments on conceptions of emergence that can actually be useful for practising evolutionary biologists. (shrink)
are often used loosely – especially in medical contexts. In an attempt to remedy this, these terms are explored from the standpoints of: philosophy of science, medicine, genetics, history of genetics and clinical genetics. A sense for ‘reductionism’ is developed in part by focusing on the related histories of classical genetics and clinical genetics. This done, the dichotomy between holism and reductionism, whether in basic genetics or the genetic counseling situation, loses much of its force. CiteULike Connotea (...) Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
The holism-reductionism debate, one of the classic subjects of study in the philosopy of science, is currently at the heart of epistemological concerns in ecology. Yet the division between holism and reductionism does not always stand out clearly in this field. In particular, almost all work in ecosystem ecology and landscape ecology presents itself as holistic and emergentist. Nonetheless, the operational approaches used rely on conventional reductionist methodology.From an emergentist epistemological perspective, a set of general 'transactional' (...) principles inspired by the work of J. Dewey and J.K. Feibleman are proposed in an effort to develop a coherent ontological and methodological semantics. (shrink)
In this set of excerpts from an earlier book, I examine some philosophical issues surrounding the whole-part relationship. I present a series of thought experiments and other arguments designed to undermine the view that wholes are "nothing but" their parts.
The argument from multiple realization is currently considered the argument against intertheoretic reduction. Both Little and Kincaid have applied the argument to the individualism-holism debate in support of the antireductionist holist position. The author shows that the tenability of the argument, as applied to the individualism-holism debate, hinges on the descriptive constraints imposed on the individualist position. On a plausible formulation of the individualist position, the argument does not establish that the intertheoretic reduction of social theories is highly (...) unlikely. Nonetheless, the reductive project may run into other potential obstacles. For this reason, it is concluded that the prospect of intertheoretic reduction is uncertain rather than unlikely. Key Words: argument from multiple realization intertheoretic reduction reductionism individualism holism. (shrink)
The reductionist/holist debate is highly polarised. I propose an intermediate position of pragmatic holism. It derives from two claims: firstly, that irrespective of whether all natural systems are theoretically reducible, for many systems it is utterly impractical to attempt such a reduction, and secondly, that regardless of whether irreducible 'wholes exist, it is vain to try and prove this. This position illuminates the debate along new pragmatic lines by refocussing attention on the underlying heuristics of learning about the natural (...) world. (shrink)
Holistic theories of meaning have, at least since Dummett’s Frege: The Philosophy of language, been assumed to be problematic from the perspective of the incremental nature of natural language learning. In this essay I argue that the general relationship between holism and language learning is in fact the opposite of that claimed by Dummett. It is only given a particular form of language learning, and a particular form of holism, that there is a problem at all; in general, (...) for all forms of holism, and irrespective of how language learning is understood, semantic holism is conducive to language learning. The paper has three main parts. In the first, I demonstrate with the use of a simple formal system, that the form of holism that generates the problem that Dummett draws attention to is really decomposable into three distinct components, each of which is necessary for the problem to arise. In the second part, I demonstrate that even Dummett’s strong form of holism is compatible with one natural way in which to understand the incremental nature of language learning. In the third part, I outline the reasons why all forms of holism are conducive to language learning and offer two ways in which this general fact can be spelled out precisely. I end the paper by addressing some possible objections, and in doing so I draw attention to some affinities between semantic holism and the principle of compositionality, a semantic principle which has long been assumed to be conducive to language learning. (shrink)
This paper attempts to build a bridge between the interpretation of quantum theory and the philosophy of mind. In contrast to other such attempts, the bridge which this paper suggests does not consist in extending features of quantum theory to the philosophy of mind. The argument of this paper is that the discussion about a revision of the Cartesian tradition in current philosophy of mind is relevant to the interpretation of quantum theory: taking this discussion into account sharpens up the (...) task for the interpretation of quantum physics as far as the scope of what is known as quantum holism is concerned. In particular, considering this discussion makes out a strong case against the interpretation that considers quantum holism to be universal in the physical realm. (shrink)
Fodor and Lepore, in their recent book "Holism," maintain that if an inference from semantic anatomism to semantic holism is allowed, certain fairly deleterious consequences follow. In Section 1 Fodor and Lepore's terminology is construed and amended where necessary with the result that the aforementioned deleterious consequences are neither so apparent nor straightforward as they had suggested. In Section 2 their "Argument A" is considered in some detail. In Section 3 their "argument attributed to Quine" is examined at (...) length and a shorter and more perspicacious argument suggested which avoids their charge that the Quinean argument is guilty of an equivocation on the word 'statement'. (shrink)
Reconciliation of semantic holism with interpretation of individual expressions is advanced here by means of a relativization of sentence meaning to object language theories viewed as idealizations of belief-systems. Fodor's view of the autonomy of the special sciences is emphasized and this is combined with detailed replies to his recent criticisms of meaning holism. The argument is that the need for empirical evidence requires a holistic approach to meaning. Thus, semantic realism requires semantic holism. -/- .
One central strand in Quine's criticism of common-sense notions of linguistic meaning is an argument from the holism of empirical content. This paper explores (with many digressions) the several versions of the argument, and discovers them to be uniformly bad. There is a kernel of truth in the idea that ?holism?, in some sense, ?undermines the analytic?synthetic distinction?, in some sense; but it has little to do with Quine's radical empiricism, or his radical scepticism about meaning.
Both libertarian and compatibilist approaches have been unsuccessful in providing an acceptable account of free will. Recent developments in cognitive neuroscience, including the connectionist theory of mind and empirical findings regarding modularity and integration of brain functions, provide the basis for a new approach: neural holism. This approach locates free will in fully integrated behavior in which all of a person's beliefs and desires, implicitly represented in the brain, automatically contribute to an act. Deliberation, the experience of volition, and (...) cognitive and behavioral shortcomings are easily understood under this model. Assigning moral praise and blame, often seen as grounded in the notion that a person has the ability to have done otherwise, will be shown to reflect instead important aspects of signaling in social interactions. Thus, important aspects of the traditional notion of free will can be accounted for within the proposed model, which has interesting implications for lifelong cognitive development. (shrink)
This paper argues that popular criticisms of semantic holism (such as that it leaves the ideas of translation, disagreement and change of mind problematic) are more properly directed at an "instability assumption" which, while often associated with holism, can be separated from it. The versions of holism that follow from 'interpretational' account of meaning are not committed to the instability assumption and can thus avoid many of the problems traditionally associated with holism.
Some particularists have argued that even virtue properties can exhibit a form of holism or context variance, e.g. sometimes an act is worse for being kind, say. But, on a common conception of virtuous acts, one derived from Aristotle, claims of virtue holism will be shown to be false. I argue, perhaps surprisingly, that on this conception the virtuousness of an act is not a reason to do it, and hence this conception of virtuous acts presents no challenge (...) to particularist claims about the context variance of reasons. Still, I argue that the virtues nevertheless have important implications for our understanding of the particularism debate. Specifically, we can accept the particularist claim that reasons do not need to be principled in order to have the normative status that they do have, while still maintaining that sound moral thought and judgement has a principled structure understood in terms of the virtues. (shrink)
. Philosopher-theologian Bernard J. F. Lonergan defines emergence as the process in which âotherwise coincidental manifolds of lower conjugate acts invite the higher integration effected by higher conjugate formsâ (Insight,  1992, 477). The meaning and implications of Lonergan’s concept of emergence are considered in the context of the problem of reductionism in the natural sciences. Examples are taken primarily from physics, chemistry, and biology.
Environmental holism has been accused of being totalitarian because it subsumes the interests and rights of individuals under the good of the whole biosphere, thus rejecting humanistic ethics. Whether this is true depends on the type of holism in question. Only an extreme form of holism leads to this totalitarian approach, and that type of holism should be rejected, not alone because it leads to unacceptable practices, but because it is too abstract and reductionistic to be (...) an adequate basis for ethics. (shrink)
The paradigm of Laplacean determinism combines three regulative principles: determinism, predictability, and the explanatory adequacy of universal laws together with purely local conditions. Historically, it applied to celestial mechanics, but it has been expanded into an ideal for scientific theories whose cogency is often not questioned. Laplace's demon is an idealization of mechanistic scientific method. Its principles together assumes imply reducibility, and rule out holism and emergence. I will argue that Laplacean determinism fails even in the realm of planetary (...) dynamics, and that it does not give suitable criteria for explanatory success except within very well defined and rather exceptional domains. Ironically, the very successes of Laplacean method in the Solar System were made possible only by processes that are not themselves tractable to Laplacean methodology. The results of some of these processes were first observed in 1964, but despite the falsification of Laplacean methodology, the explanatory resources of holism and emergence remain in scientific limbo. (shrink)
After decades of neglect philosophers of physics have discovered gauge theories--arguably the paradigm of modern field physics--as a genuine topic for foundational and philosophical research. Incidentally, in the last couple of years interest from the philosophy of physics in structural realism--in the eyes of its proponents the best suited realist position towards modern physics--has also raised. This paper tries to connect both topics and aims to show that structural realism gains further credence from an ontological analysis of gauge theories--in particular (...) U(1) gauge theory. In the first part of the paper the framework of fiber bundle gauge theories is briefly presented and the interpretation of local gauge symmetry will be examined. In the second part, an ontological underdetermination of gauge theories is carved out by considering the various kinds of non-locality involved in such typical effects as the Aharonov-Bohm effect. The analysis shows that the peculiar form of non-separability figuring in gauge theories is a variant of spatiotemporal holism and can be distinguished from quantum theoretic holism. In the last part of the paper the arguments for a gauge theoretic support of structural realism are laid out and discussed. (shrink)
Presented is a discourse on the contextual nature of physical qualities. The realistic and observational contexts in which a system exists are demonstrated as equally involved in defining its qualities. Each quality could be consequently considered as natural and experiential at the same time. The subsequently proposed thesis of the contextual co-definition of natural/experiential qualities in the relationship between the human mind and Nature is shown to possess numerous favorable ethical and aesthetical implications. The contextual nature of experiential qualities is (...) further correlated with the holistic character of natural systems and events, which is illustrated by several real-life examples. A systemic approach to knowledge is shown to naturally emanate from the acceptance of the contextual definition of physical qualities and the holistic nature of experiences. Methodological problems of the standard, reductionist explanatory frameworks are additionally discussed with an emphasis on the major descriptive flaws of quantificational approaches and in respect to cybernetic and autopoietic organization of physical and biological systems. (shrink)
I defend the possibility of a functional account of the intrinsic qualities of sensory experience against the claim that functional characterization can only describe such qualities to the level of isomorphism of relational structures on those qualities. A form sensory holism might be true concerning the phenomenal, and this holism would account for some antifunctionalist intuition evoked by inverted spectrum and absent qualia arguments. Sensory holism is compatible with the correctness of functionalism about the phenomenal.
Jerry Fodor and Ernie LePore argue against inferential role semantics on the grounds that either it relies on an analytic/synthetic distinction vulnerable to Quinean objections, or else it leads to a variety of meaning holism frought with absurd consequences. However, the slide from semantic atomism to meaning holism might be prevented by distinctions not affected by Quine's arguments against analyticity; and the absurd consequences Fodor and LePore attribute to meaning holism obtain only on an implausible construal of (...) inferential roles. (shrink)
Aspects of an example of simulated shared subjectivity can be used both to support Steven Lehar's remarks on embodied percipients and to triangulate in a novel way the so-called “hard problem” of consciousness which Lehar wishes to “sidestep,” but which, given his other contentions regarding emergent holism, raises questions about whether he has been able or willing to do so.
According to Gold & Stoljar, one cannot consistently be both reductionist about psychoneural relations and invoke concepts developed in the psychological sciences. I deny the utility of their distinction between biological and cognitive neuroscience, suggesting that they construe biological neuroscience too rigidly and cognitive neuroscience too liberally. Then, I reject their characterization of reductionism. Reductions need not go down past neurobiology straight to physics, and cases of partial, local reduction are not neatly distinguishable from cases of mere implementation. Modifying (...) the argument from unification as reduction, I defend a position weaker than the radical but stronger than the trivial neuron doctrine. (shrink)
Much contemporary epistemology is informed by a kind of confirmational holism, and a consequent rejection of the assumption that all confirmation rests on experiential certainties. Another prominent theme is that belief comes in degrees, and that rationality requires apportioning one's degrees of belief reasonably. Bayesian confirmation models based on Jeffrey Conditionalization attempt to bring together these two appealing strands. I argue, however, that these models cannot account for a certain aspect of confirmation that would be accounted for in any (...) adequate holistic confirmation theory. I then survey the prospects for constructing a formal epistemology that better accommodates holistic insights. (shrink)
The claim of this paper is that we should envisage physicalism as an ontological holism. Our current basic physics, quantum theory, suggests that, ontologically speaking, we have to assume one global quantum state of the world; many of the properties that are often taken to be intrinsic properties of physical systems are in fact relations, which are determined by that global quantum state. The paper elaborates on this conception of physicalism as an ontological holism and considers issues such (...) as supervenience, realization of higher-order properties by basic physical properties, and reduction. Keywords: physicalism, holism, relations, space-time, quantum physics, Humean supervenience. (shrink)
It is here argued that functionalist constraints on psychology do not preclude the applicability of classic forms of reduction and, therefore, do not support claims to a principled, or de jure, autonomy of psychology. In Part I, after isolating one minimal restriction any functionalist theory must impose on its categories, it is shown that any functionalism imposing an additional constraint of de facto autonomy must also be committed to a pure functionalist--that is, a computationalist--model for psychology. Using an extended parallel (...) to the reduction of Mendelian to molecular genetics, it is shown in Parts II and III that, contrary to the claims of Hilary Putnam and Jerry Fodor, there is no inconsistency between computational models and classical reductionism: neither plurality of physical realization nor plurality of function are inconsistent with reductionism as defended by Ernest Nagel. Employing the results of Part I, the conclusions of Parts II and III are generalized in Part IV to cover any version of functionalism whatsoever; thus, functionalism and reductionism are shown to be consistent. It is urged in conclusion that although a de facto form of autonomy is defensible, there are sound methodological grounds for unconditionally rejecting any principled version of the autonomy of psychology. (shrink)
It has sometimes been suggested that quantum phenomena exhibit a characteristic holism or nonseparability, and that this distinguishes quantum from classical physics. One puzzling quantum phenomenon arises when one performs measurements of spin or polarization on certain separated quantum systems. The results of these measurements exhibit patterns of statistical correlation that resist traditional causal explanation. Some have held that it is possible to understand these patterns as instances or consequences of quantum holism or nonseparability. Just what holism (...) and nonseparability are supposed to be has not always been made clear, though, and each of these notions has been understood in different ways. Moreover, while some have taken holism and nonseparability to come to the same thing, others have thought it important to distinguish the two. Any evaluation of the significance of quantum holism and/or nonseparability must rest on a careful analysis of these notions. (shrink)
Quine’s holism and holism in quantum physics are usually considered to be two different issues which merely have the name “holism” in common. My aim, by contrast, is to build a bridge between these two sorts of holism. This paper is an argument for three theses: 1) The discussion on holism and other options in the interpretation of quantum physics is one paradigmatic example of Quine’s confirmation holism in the philosophy of physics. In particular, (...) taking Quine’s holism into account puts the claim of experimental metaphysics in the interpretation of quantum physics into perspective. 2) Quine’s criterion for changes to our system of knowledge enables a rational evaluation of the options in the interpretation of quantum theory. In particular, this criterion supports the option for quantum holism. 3) The meaning of “holism” in Quine’s thesis about statements and the meaning of “holism” in what quantum theory says about physical systems exhibit a far-reaching analogy. According to Quine’s seminal paper “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” (first published as Quine (1951)), four features are central to his holism:  a) There is no separation between science and philosophy in the sense of metaphysics. b) Experience confirms or disconfirms a scientific hypothesis only together with a cluster of background assumptions that finally encompass the whole of science. c) We always have a number of options to adapt our system of knowledge to new experience. It is rational to endorse that option which implies the lest overall change to the system as a whole. d) Only a cluster of statements and ultimately only the whole of science has meaning. My argument for my first thesis is that a) and b) can be applied to the interpretation of quantum physics. I argue for my second thesis by claiming that c) supports the option for quantum holism. To make a case for my third thesis, I compare the characterization of science which b) and d) imply with the characterization of nature at the microphysical level that quantum theory implies according to the option for quantum holism. To begin with, I briefly recall Quine’s confirmation holism (section 2).. (shrink)
Most research in the natural sciences passes through repeated cycles of a analytic reduction to the next lower level of organization, then resynthesis to the original level, then new analyticareduction, and so on. A residue of unexplained phenomena at the original level appears at first to require a holistic description independent of the lower level, but the residue shrinks as knowledge increases.This principle is well illustrated by recent studies from the social organization of insects, several examples of which are cited (...) here. In theory it should also apply to human social organization. Culture is biological: meaning in culture can be approached as the outcome of mechanism-based causation, because culture stems from individual cognition, which has a biological basis. It would seem to follow that the most effective way to study culture is across all levels of organization from gene to society, passing repetitively through a cycle of reduction and synthesis in the manner of the natural sciences. Reductionistic analysis is favored by the tendency of semantic memory and culture to occur in discrete units that are arranged hierarchically. (shrink)
In recent cancer research, strong and apparently conflicting epistemological stances have been advocated by different research teams in a mist of an ever-growing body of knowledge ignited by ever-more perplexing and non-conclusive experimental facts: in the past few years, an 'organicist' approach investigating cancer development at the tissue level has challenged the established and so-called 'reductionist' approach focusing on disentangling the genetic and molecular circuitry of carcinogenesis. This article reviews the ways in which 'organicism' and 'reductionism' are used and (...) opposed in this context, with an aim at clarifying the debate. Methodological, epistemological and ontological implications of both approaches are discussed. We argue that the 'organicist/reductionist' opposition in the present case of carcinogenesis is more a matter of diverging heuristics than a claim about theoretical or ontological (ir)reducibility. As a matter of fact, except for the downward causation claim, which we question, we argue that the organicist arguments are compatible with the reductionist approach. Moreover, we speculate that both approaches, which currently focus on specific entities i.e., genes versus tissues, will need to shift their conceptual frameworks to studying complex arrays of relationships potentially ranging over several levels of entities, as is the case with 'systems biology'. (shrink)
A classification of models of reduction into three categories — theory reductionism, explanatory reductionism, and constitutive reductionism — is presented. It is shown that this classification helps clarify the relations between various explications of reduction that have been offered in the past, especially if a distinction is maintained between the various epistemological and ontological issues that arise. A relatively new model of explanatory reduction, one that emphasizes that reduction is the explanation of a whole in terms of (...) its parts is also presented in detail. Finally, the classification is used to clarify the debate over reductionism in molecular biology. It is argued there that while no model from the category of theory reduction might be applicable in that case, models of explanatory reduction might yet capture the structure of the relevant explanations. (shrink)
The special and unique attitudes that we take towards events in our futures/pasts—e.g., attitudes like the dread of an impeding pain—create a challenge for “Reductionist” accounts that reduce persons to aggregates of interconnected person stages: if the person stage currently dreading tomorrow’s pain is numerically distinct from the person stage that will actually suffer the pain, what reason could the current person stage have for thinking of that future pain as being his? One reason everyday subjects believe they have a (...) substantially extended temporal existence stems from introspection—they introspectively experience their selves as being temporally extended. In this paper, I examine whether a Reductionist about personal identity can co-opt this explanation. Using Galen Strawson’s recent work on self-experience as a resource, I reach both a negative and a positive conclusion about the prospects of such a position. First, the relevant kind of self-experience—i.e., the introspective experience of one’s self as being a substantially temporally extended entity—will not automatically arise within a person stage simply in virtue of that stage being psychologically connected to/continuous with other person stages. Second, the relevant kind of self-experience will arise, however, in virtue of person stages weaving together their respective experiences, actions, etc. via a narrative. This positive conclusion points towards a new Reductionist position that focuses upon a narrative, and not mere psychological continuity, in attempting to justify the special attitudes we take towards events in our futures/pasts. (shrink)
Abstract In their book, Holism: A Shopper's Guide, Jerry Fodor and Ernest Lepore fail to distinguish between two kinds of holism. One of these is holism about meaning, which is indeed problematic. The other is holism about translation, which is not so clearly problematic. Moreover, the problem with the first sort is that it renders communication unintelligible, not that it rules out psychological laws. Further, Fodor and Lepore's criticisms of various contemporary holists are based on serious (...) misreadings. In particular, Quine need not accept the conception of statements that they force on him, and Davidson and Dennett do not argue for the principle of charity in the ways Fodor and Lepore suppose. But Fodor and Lepore's question about the provenance of the principle of charity is a good one and deserves an answer. (shrink)
Contemporary philosophers of mind tend to assume that the world of nature can be reduced to basic physics. Yet there are features of the mind consciousness, intentionality, normativity that do not seem to be reducible to physics or neuroscience. This explanatory gap between mind and brain has thus been a major cause of concern in recent philosophy of mind. Reductionists hold that, despite all appearances, the mind can be reduced to the brain. Eliminativists hold that it cannot, and that this (...) implies that there is something illegitimate about the mentalistic vocabulary. Dualists hold that the mental is irreducible, and that this implies either a substance or a property dualism. Mysterian non-reductive physicalists hold that the mind is uniquely irreducible, perhaps due to some limitation of our self-understanding. In this book, Steven Horst argues that this whole conversation is based on assumptions left over from an outdated philosophy of science. While reductionism was part of the philosophical orthodoxy fifty years ago, it has been decisively rejected by philosophers of science over the past thirty years, and for good reason. True reductions are in fact exceedingly rare in the sciences, and the conviction that they were there to be found was an artifact of armchair assumptions of 17th century Rationalists and 20th century Logical Empiricists. The explanatory gaps between mind and brain are far from unique. In fact, in the sciences it is gaps all the way down.And if reductions are rare in even the physical sciences, there is little reason to expect them in the case of psychology. Horst argues that this calls for a complete re-thinking of the contemporary problematic in philosophy of mind. Reductionism, dualism, eliminativism and non-reductive materialism are each severely compromised by post-reductionist philosophy of science, and philosophy of mind is in need of a new paradigm. Horst suggests that such a paradigm might be found in Cognitive Pluralism: the view that human cognitive architecture constrains us to understand the world through a plurality of partial, idealized, and pragmatically-constrained models, each employing a particular representational system optimized for its own problem domain. Such an architecture can explain the disunities of knowledge, and is plausible on evolutionary grounds. (shrink)
John Bickle's Psychoneural reduction: the new wave (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998) aims to resurrect reductionism within philosophy of mind. He develops a new model of scientific reduction, geared to enhancing our understanding of how theories in neuroscience and cognitive science are interrelated. I put this discussion in context, and assess the prospects for new wave reductionism, both as a general model of scientific reduction and as an attempt to defend reductionism in the philosophy of mind.
After the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, scientists working in molecular biology embraced reductionism—the theory that all complex systems can be understood in terms of their components. Reductionism, however, has been widely resisted by both nonmolecular biologists and scientists working outside the field of biology. Many of these antireductionists, nevertheless, embrace the notion of physicalism—the idea that all biological processes are physical in nature. How, Alexander Rosenberg asks, can these self-proclaimed physicalists also be antireductionists? With (...) clarity and wit, Darwinian Reductionism navigates this difficult and seemingly intractable dualism with convincing analysis and timely evidence. In the spirit of the few distinguished biologists who accept reductionism—E. O. Wilson, Francis Crick, Jacques Monod, James Watson, and Richard Dawkins—Rosenberg provides a philosophically sophisticated defense of reductionism and applies it to molecular developmental biology and the theory of natural selection, ultimately proving that the physicalist must also be a reductionist. (shrink)
Mental (or semantic) holism is the doctrine that the identity of a belief content (or the meaning of a sentence that expresses it) is determined by its place in the web of beliefs or sentences comprising a whole theory or group of theories. It can be contrasted with two other views: atomism and molecularism. Molecularism characterizes meaning and content in terms of relatively small parts of the web in a way that allows many different theories to share those parts. (...) For example, the meaning of 'chase' might be said by a molecularist to be try to catch. Atomism characterizes meaning and content in terms of none of the web; it says that sentences and beliefs have meaning or content independently of their relations to other sentences or beliefs. One major motivation for holism has come from reflections on the natures of confirmation and learning. As Quine (1953) observed, claims about the world are confirmed not individually, but only in conjunction with theories of which they are a part. And typically, one cannot come to understand scientific claims without understanding a significant chunk of the theory of which they are a part. For example, in learning the Newtonian concepts of 'force', 'mass', kinetic energy' and 'momentum', one doesn't learn any definitions of these terms in terms that are understood beforehand, for there are no such definitions. Rather, these theoretical terms were all learned together in conjunction with procedures for solving problems. The major problem with holism is that it threatens to make generalization in psychology virtually impossible. If the content of any state depends on all others, it would be extremely unlikely that any two believers would ever share a state with the same content. Moreover, holism would appear to conflict with our ordinary conception of reasoning. What sentences one accepts influence what one infers. if i accept a sentence and then later reject it, i thereby change the inferential role of that sentence, so the meaning of what i accept wouldn't be the same as what i later reject. but then it would be difficult to understand on this view how one could rationally --or even irrationally!-- change one's mind. and agreement and translation are also problematic for much the same reason. holists have responded (1) by proposing that we should think not in terms of "same/different" meaning but in terms of a gradient of similarity of meaning, (2) by proposing "two factor" theories or (3) by simply accepting the consequence that there is no real difference between changing meanings and changing beliefs. (shrink)
This paper's ?I examines Derek Parfit's main, metaphysical, argument for reductionism about personal identity. ?II considers three possible ethical arguments for reductionism, and suggests a new approach to the question of what matters about personal identity which has to do with the notion of an ethical narrative.
Recent work in the domain of the validation of complex computational models reveals that modelers of complex systems, particularly modelers of the earth’s climate, face a deeply entrenched form of confirmation holism. Confirmation holism, as it is traditionally understood, is the thesis that a single hypothesis cannot be tested in isolation, but that such tests always depend on other theories or hypothesis. It is always this collection of theories and hypotheses as a whole, says the thesis, that confront (...) the tribunal of experience. But in contrast to the way the problem of confirmation holism is typically understood in the philosophy of science, the problems faced by climate scientists are not merely logical problems, and nor are they confined to the role of anything that can suitably be called auxiliary hypotheses. Rather, they are deep and entrenched problems that confront the scientist who works with models whose component parts interact in such a complex manner, and have such a complex history, that the scientist is unable to evaluate the worth of the parts in isolation. (shrink)
Several authors have commented on my reductionist account of spirituality in nursing, describing it variously as naïve, disrespectful, demeaning, paternalistic, arrogant, reifying, indicative of a closed mind, akin to positivism, a procrustean bed, a perpetuation of fraud, a matter of faith, an attempt to secure ideological power, and a perspective that puritanically forbids interesting philosophical topics. In responding to this list of felonies and misdemeanours, I try to justify my excesses by arguing that the critics have not really understood what (...)reductionism involves; that rejecting reductionism is not the same as providing arguments against it; that the ethical dilemmas allegedly associated with reductionist views are endemic to health care; that 'reifying' is what believers in the spiritual realm do; and that the closed minds belong to those who dismiss reductionist science without having studied its achievements. (shrink)
Millers Living Systems Theory (LST) is known to be very comprehensive. It comprises eight nested hierarchical levels. It also includes twenty critical subsystems. While Millers approach has been analyzed and applied in great detail, some problematic features remain, requiring further explication. One of these is the relationship between reduction and emergence in LST. There are at least four relevant possibilities. One is that LST exhibits neither clear reductionism nor emergence, but is essentially neutral in this regard. Another is that (...) the apparent comprehensiveness of LST is illusory, as the approach remains vulnerable to reduction that could ultimately reduce it to a shadow of its present self. The charge of reductionism has been made by critics leading Miller to defend this theory vehemently as nonreductionist in nature. A third possibility is that LST is not reductionist, but is in fact an emergent theory. Miller makes this claim quite strongly. A fourth possibility, and in some ways the most analytically problematic, is that LST exhibits evidence of both reductionism and emergence simultaneously. Some critics might see this fourth situation as evidence of a troubling paradox or anomaly that must be resolved before further progress can be made in the explication and application of LST. The purpose of the paper is to remove this apparent anomaly. The paper removes this anomaly by differentiating between new-variable emergence and transformational emergence. No concrete evidence is found to contradict Milers claim of emergence in LST, and thus no true anomaly exists. (shrink)
The indispensability argument is a method for showing that abstract mathematical objects exist (call this mathematical Platonism). Various versions of this argument have been proposed (§1). Lately, commentators seem to have agreed that a holistic indispensability argument (§2) will not work, and that an explanatory indispensability argument is the best candidate. In this paper I argue that the dominant reasons for rejecting the holistic indispensability argument are mistaken. This is largely due to an overestimation of the consequences that follow from (...) evidential holism. Nevertheless, the holistic indispensability argument should be rejected, but for a different reason (§3)—in order that an indispensability argument relying on holism can work, it must invoke an unmotivated version of evidential holism. Such an argument will be unsound. Correcting the argument with a proper construal of evidential holism means that it can no longer deliver mathematical Platonism as a conclusion: such an argument for Platonism will be invalid. I then show how the reasons for rejecting the holistic indispensability argument importantly constrain what kind of account of explanation will be permissible in explanatory versions (§4). (shrink)
The suggestion that cognition is holistic has become a prominent criticism of optimism about the prospects for cognitive science. This paper argues that the standard motivation for this holism, that of epistemological holism, does not justify this pessimism. An illustration is given of how the effects of epistemological holism on perception are compatible with the view that perceptual processes are highly modular. A suggestion for generalizing this idea to conceptual cognitive processing is made, and an account of (...) the holists' failure is offered. (shrink)
In their recent book Holism, Jerry Fodor & Ernest Lepore (F&L) argue that various species of content holism face insuperable difficulties. In this paper I reply to their claims. After describing the version of holism to which I subscribe, I follow them in addressing, in turn, its implications for these related topics: interpersonal understanding, false beliefs and reference, psychological explanation, content sirnilarity and identity, the analytic-synthetic distinction, and empirical evidence. The most prominent theme in my response to (...) F&L is that while holism does suffer from the problems they note in principle, it’s able to avoid them in practice. Holism’s implications, in short, are not only not fatal, but not even so bad --- and very possibly desirable. (shrink)
In this paper the common association between ontological reductionism and a methodological position called 'Mechanism' is discussed. Three major points are argued for: (1) Mechanism is not to be identified with reductionism in any of its forms; in fact, mechanism leads to a non-reductionist ontology. (2) Biological methodology is thoroughly mechanistic. (3) Mechanism is compatible with at least one form of teleology. Along the way the nature and value of scientific explanations, some recent controversies in biology and why (...)reductionism has proven to be such an attractive position are discussed. (shrink)
This paper responds to David Little's recent discussion of the author's "holistic" criticisms of "Comparative Religious Ethics" (Little and Twiss, 1978). In two crucial areas, Little seems to have moved beyond his original position: first, in granting that the relation among the levels of the structure of practical justification is interactive; and second, in making explicit his conception of the point of pursuing comparative studies. Both developments are welcome, but they raise doubts about whether much of the (...) original position survives. The author articulates these doubts, and also reflects on what difference holism makes in ethics. (shrink)
I argue that there are good reasons to deny both type-type and token-token mind-brain identity theories. Yet on the other hand there are compelling reasons for thinking that there is a causal basis for the mind. I argue that a path out of this impasse involves not only showing that criteria of individuation do not determine identity, but also that there are sound methodological reasons for thinking that the cause of intelligent behavior is a real natural kind. Finally, a commitment (...) to this methodology suggests both that these familiar anti-reductionist arguments fail to establish that identity is impossible and at the same time suggest that the preferred alternative will be some version of neutral monism. (shrink)
Holism about thought content – especially coupled with a measure of semantic externalism – can provide us with an attractive account of how thinking relates to the world. It can help us to tell a neat story that starts out with the inseparable entanglement of truth and intelligibility: in order to understand thought, to confront it to the world and to give verdicts about that confrontation, we need to grasp a considerable amount of truths. A variety of positions that (...) emerge under the influence of Davidson’s arguments (see, for instance, his 1974) deny the possibility of severing the connection between thought and facts of the world. However, this holisticunderstanding of thought seems less attractive when it is forced to account for our capacities to engage with singularities. A (roughly) Davidsonian conception of thought faces serious problems when it tries to answer questions regarding singular thoughts, de re attitudes and beliefs, and the nature of items of the world that cannot be described or referred to without the aid of demonstratives. This tension between thought and singularity is a well-known one and shows up in different traditions of philosophy. We aim at easing the tension without giving up the intuitions behind holism. (shrink)
The dominant conceptions of moral status in the English-speaking literature are either holist or individualist, neither of which accounts well for widespread judgments that: animals and humans both have moral status that is of the same kind but different in degree; even a severely mentally incapacitated human being has a greater moral status than an animal with identical internal properties; and a newborn infant has a greater moral status than a mid-to-late stage foetus. Holists accord no moral status to any (...) of these beings, assigning it only to groups to which they belong, while individualists such as welfarists grant an equal moral status to humans and many animals, and Kantians accord no moral status either to animals or severely mentally incapacitated humans. I argue that an underexplored, modal-relational perspective does a better job of accounting for degrees of moral status. According to modal-relationalism, something has moral status insofar as it capable of having a certain causal or intensional connection with another being. I articulate a novel instance of modal-relationalism grounded in salient sub-Saharan moral views, roughly according to which the greater a being's capacity to be part of a communal relationship with us, the greater its moral status. I then demonstrate that this new, African-based theory entails and plausibly explains the above judgments, among others, in a unified way. (shrink)
The concept of holism is of great use in philosophy of science. But its meaning does not correspond to the traditional use of holism in social sciences. The aim of the paper is to criticize an attempt to link the two meanings. Such a confusion derives from a misunderstanding of methodological individualism which is erroneously considered to be an atomism. Since the concepts of holism can be related to many different meanings, and since there are many different (...) models of action (including different models of rationality) behind the concept of methodological individualism, the debate should be cautious of all those differences. The papers gives a brief survey of these and discusses specific theses expressed by Vincent Descombes to support holism in social sciences. (shrink)
Has Derek Parfit modified his views on personal identity in light of Quassim Cassam’s neo-Kantian argument that to experience the world as objective, we must think of ourselves as enduring subjects of experience? Both parties suggest there is no longer a serious dispute between them. I retrace the path that led to this truce, and contend that the debate remains open. Parfit’s recent work reveals a re-formulation of his ostensibly abandoned claim that there could be impersonal descriptions of reality. I (...) show why Parfit still needs this claim, and how it conflicts with the neo-Kantian view. (shrink)
Effective field theories have been a very popular tool in quantum physics for almost two decades. And there are good reasons for this. I will argue that effective field theories share many of the advantages of both fundamental theories and phenomenological models, while avoiding their respective shortcomings. They are, for example, flexible enough to cover a wide range of phenomena, and concrete enough to provide a detailed story of the specific mechanisms at work at a given energy scale. So will (...) all of physics eventually converge on effective field theories? This paper argues that good scientific research can be characterised by a fruitful interaction between fundamental theories, phenomenological models and effective field theories. All of them have their appropriate functions in the research process, and all of them are indispensable. They complement each other and hang together in a coherent way which I shall characterise in some detail. To illustrate all this I will present a case study from nuclear and particle physics. The resulting view about scientific theorising is inherently pluralistic, and has implications for the debates about reductionism and scientific explanation. (shrink)
The difficulty to pin down the philosophical content of structuralism depends on the fact that it operates on an implicit metaphysics; such a metaphysics can be best unfolded by examining Jacques Derrida's deconstructionist critique of it. The essay argues that both structuralism and Derrida's critique rely on holistic premises. From an initial externalist definition of structure, structuralism's metaphysics emerges as a kind of 'immanent' holism, similar to the one pursued, in the contemporary analytic panorama, by Donald Davidson. By contrast, (...) Derrida's deconstructionist critique appears engaged in a 'quasi-transcendental' version of holism, which the author analyzes in connection with Martin Heidegger's notion of Verwindung, or twisted overcoming. Key Words: deconstruction differenc genealogy holism internalism/externalism structuralism Verwindung. (shrink)
One of the central points of contention in the epistemology of testimony concerns the uniqueness (or not) of the justification of beliefs formed through testimony-whether such justification can be accounted for in terms of, or 'reduced to,' other familiar sort of justification, e.g. without relying on any epistemic principles unique to testimony. One influential argument for the reductionist position, found in the work of Elizabeth Fricker, argues by appeal to the need for the hearer to monitor the testimony for credibility. (...) Fricker (1994) argues, first, that some monitoring for trustworthiness is required if the hearer is to avoid being gullible, and second, that reductionism but not anti-reductionism is compatible with ascribing an important role to the process of monitoring in the course of justifiably accepting observed testimony. In this paper we argue that such an argument fails. (shrink)
Explanatory models in psychiatry reflect what clinicians deem valuable in rendering people's behavior intelligible and thus help guide treatment choices for mental illnesses. This article outlines some key scientific and ethical principles of clinical explanation in twenty-first century psychiatry. Recent work in philosophy of science, clinical psychiatry, and psychiatric ethics are critically reviewed in order to elucidate conceptual underpinnings of contemporary explanatory models. Many explanatory models in psychiatry are reductionistic or eclectic. The former restrict options for diagnostic and therapeutic (...) paradigm choice, while the latter lack a well-defined theoretical basis. These two methodological approaches stand in a dialectical relation to one another insofar as clinicians often move from one approach to its antithesis, ultimately seeking a synthesis of the two approaches that satisfies clinical needs. Pragmatic considerations can help to transcend the reductionism/eclecticism dialectic. In the absence of a completed science of mental disorders, psychiatrists must tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty as they strive to integrate diverse explanatory concepts in a rigorous and evidence-based fashion. A pragmatic explanatory model in clinical psychiatry must focus on favorable treatment outcomes for patients by respecting the pluralistic, participatory, and provisional nature of psychiatric explanation. (shrink)
In recent years, a ''change in attitude'' in particle physics has led to our understanding current quantum field theories as effective field theories (EFTs). The present paper is concerned with the significance of this EFT approach, especially from the viewpoint of the debate on reductionism in science. In particular, I shall show how EFTs provide a new and interesting case study in current philosophical discussion on reduction, emergence, and inter-level relationships in general.
Alexander Rosenberg recently claimed (1997) that developmental biology is currently being reduced to molecular biology. cite several concrete biological examples that are intended to impugn Rosenberg's claim. I first argue that although Laubichler and Wagner's examples would refute a very strong reductionism, a more moderate reductionism would escape their attacks. Next, taking my cue from the antireductionist's perennial stress on the importance of spatial organization, I describe one form an empirical finding that refutes this moderate reductionism would (...) take. Finally, I point out an actual example, anterior-posterior axis determination in the chick, that challenges the reductionist's belief that all developmental regularities can be explained by molecular biology. In short, I argue that Rosenberg's position can be saved from Laubichler and Wagner's criticisms and putative counter-examples, but it would not survive a different kind of counter-example. (shrink)
The study of mental illness by the methods of molecular genetics is still in its infancy, but the use of genetic markers in psychiatry may potentially lead to a Virchowian revolution in the conception of mental illness. Genetic markers may define novel clusters of patients having diverse clinical presentations but sharing a common genetic and mechanistic basis. Such clusters may differ radically from the conventional classification schemes of psychiatric illness. However, the reduction of even relatively simple Mendelian phenomena to molecular (...) genetics has been shown to be a surprisingly complex and problematic enterprise. Mental illnesses exist at many levels of including social, environmental, and developmental interactions. Reductionistic shifts in the classification of such a disease entity will have to address the interlevel dynamics that take place within the structure of theories of mental illness. The question of how molecular analysis of psychiatric disease will impact on the structure of existing theories and classification systems is the central topic of this paper. Keywords: disease, philosophy of biology, psychiatry, reductionism CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Do accounts of scientific theory formation and revision have implications for theories of everyday cognition? We maintain that failing to distinguish between importantly different types of theories of scientific inferencehas led to fundamental misunderstandings of the relationship between science andeveryday cognition. In this paper, we focus on one influential manifestation of this phenomenon which is found in Fodor’s well-known critique of theories of cognitive architecture. We argue that in developing his critique, Fodor confoundsa variety of distinct claims about the holistic (...) nature of scientific inference. Having done so, we outline more promising relations that hold between theories of scientific inference and ordinary cognition. (shrink)
In this paper and its sequel, I consider the significance of Jarrett's and Shimony's analyses of the so-called factorisability (Bell-locality) condition for clarifying the nature of quantum non-locality. In this paper, I focus on four types of non-locality: superluminal signalling, <span class='Hi'>action</span>-at-a-distance, non-separability and holism. In the second paper, I consider a fifth type of non-locality: superluminal causation according to 'logically weak' concepts of causation, where causal dependence requires neither <span class='Hi'>action</span> nor signalling. In this connection, I pay special (...) attention to the difficulties that superluminal causation raises in relativistic space-time. I conclude by evaluating the relevance of Jarrett's and Shimony's analyses for clarifying the question of the compatibility of quantum non-locality with relativity theory. My main conclusions are, first: these analyses are significant for clarifying the questions of superluminal signalling in quantum phenomena and for the compatibility of these phenomena with relativity. But, second, by contrast: these analyses are not very significant for the study of <span class='Hi'>action</span>-at-a distance, superluminal causation, non-separability and holism in quantum phenomena. (shrink)
It has recently been suggested that, for Leibniz, temporal facts globally supervene on causal facts, with the result that worlds differing with respect to their causal facts can be indiscernible with respect to their temporal facts. Such an interpretation is at variance with more traditional readings of Leibniz's causal theory of time, which hold that Leibniz reduces temporal facts to causal facts. In this article, I argue against the global supervenience construal of Leibniz's philosophy of time. On the view of (...) Leibniz defended here, he adopts a non-modal reduction of time to events, a form of reductionism that entails a strong covariation between a world's temporal facts and its causal facts. Consequently, worlds discernible with respect to their temporal facts must be discernible with respect to their causal facts, and worlds discernible with respect to their causal facts must be discernible with respect to their temporal facts. This position strongly favors the standard identificatory reduction of time to causation often imputed to Leibniz. (shrink)
In the first section of this paper I present a well known objection to meaning holism, according to which holism is inconsistent with natural language being learnable. Then I show that the objection fails if language acquisition includes stages of partial grasp of the meaning of at least some expressions, and I argue that standard model theoretic semantics cannot fully capture such stages. In the second section the above claims are supported through a review of current research into (...) language acquisition. Finally, in the third section it is argued that contemporary algebraic logical systems consist in a superior formal vehicle through which to capture stages of partial grasp of meaning; this claim is supported by concrete examples. (shrink)
Motivated by the question what it is that makes quantum mechanics a holistic theory (if so), I try to define for general physical theories what we mean by `holism'. For this purpose I propose an epistemological criterion to decide whether or not a physical theory is holistic, namely: a physical theory is holistic if and only if it is impossible in principle to infer the global properties, as assigned in the theory, by local resources available to an agent. I (...) propose that these resources include at least all local operations and classical communication. This approach is contrasted with the well-known approaches to holism in terms of supervenience. The criterion for holism proposed here involves a shift in emphasis from ontology to epistemology. I apply this epistemological criterion to classical physics and Bohmian mechanics as represented on a phase and configuration space respectively, and for quantum mechanics (in the orthodox interpretation) using the formalism of general quantum operations as completely positive trace non-increasing maps. Furthermore, I provide an interesting example from which one can conclude that quantum mechanics is holistic in the above mentioned sense, although, perhaps surprisingly, no entanglement is needed. (shrink)
This article aims to defend Locke against Quine’s charge, made in his famous “two dogmas” paper, that Locke’s theory of knowledge is badly flawed, not only for assuming the dogmas, but also for adopting an “intolerably restrictive” version of the dogma of reductionism. It is shown here that, in his analysis of the epistemological status of scientific laws, Locke has effectively transcended the narrow idea-empiricism which underlies this version of reductionism. First, in order to escape idealism, he introduced (...) the notion of “sensitive knowledge of the particular existence of finite beings without us,” broadening thus his initial definition of knowledge in terms of the “perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas” — a definition compatible with Quine’s interpretation. Secondly, after showing that we can have virtually no a priori knowledge of universal truths about substances, Locke extended the notion of “sensitive knowledge” to the particular propositions of “coexistence” in substances, appealing to the notion of “probability” for treating their inductive generalizations and, in particular, the phenomenological laws of science. Finally, acknowledging the essential presence of hypothetical, nonphenomenological laws in science, he anticipated much of the contemporary views on their role and nature, including, remarkably, a mild version of the epistemological holism championed by Quine. (shrink)
J. E. Malpas discusses and develops the ideas of Donald Davidson, influential in contemporary thinking on the nature of understanding and meaning, and of truth and knowledge. He provides an account of Davidson's holistic and hermeneutical conception of linguistic interpretation, and, more generally, of the mind. Outlining its Quinean origins and the elements basic to Davidson's Radical Interpretation, J. E. Malpas' book goes on to elaborate this holism and to examine the indeterminacy of interpretation and the principle of charity. (...) The metaphysical and epistemological consequences of Davidson's approach are considered, particularly in relation to scepticism and relativism, the realist/anti-realist debate, and the problem of truth. Parallels are drawn between the Davidsonian emphasis on the centrality of the notion of truth and Heidegger's notion of truth as aletheia, as the book looks to structuralist, hermeneutical and phenomenological sources to illuminate Davidson's position. (shrink)
During the scientific revolution reductionism and mechanism were introduced together. These concepts remained intertwined through much of the ensuing history of philosophy and science, resulting in the privileging of approaches to research that focus on the smallest bits of nature. This combination of concepts has been the object of intense feminist criticism, as it encourages biological determinism, narrows researchers’ choices of problems and methods, and allows researchers to ignore the contextual features of the phenomena they investigate. I argue (...) that the historical link between mechanism and reductionism is not a necessary one, that this link should be severed, and in many cases has already been severed. Teasing reductionism away from mechanism allows us to hold onto the mechanistic view that science should explain how things work, without mandating methods and approaches that reduce the objects of scientific investigation to their smallest parts. Mechanism without reductionism decenters reductive methods, and so creates intellectual space for a plurality of methods that may engage the world at a variety of levels of organization. This ensuing pluralism opens the door for a wide variety of approaches to research, including feminist and gender-sensitive science. (shrink)
While holism and atomism are often treated as mutually exclusive approaches to semantic theory, the apparent tension between the two usually results from running together distinct levels of semantic explanation. In particular, there is no reason why one can’t combine an atomistic conception of what the semantic values of our words are (one’s “descriptive semantics”), with a holistic explanation of why they have those values (one’s “foundational semantics”). Most objections to holism can be shown to apply only to (...) holistic version of descriptive semantics, and do not tell against any sorts of holistic foundational semantics. As Davidson’s work will be used to illustrate, by clearly distinguishing foundational and descriptive semantics, one can capture the most appealing features of both holism and atomism. (shrink)
Abstract Ontological holism is the thesis that social groups are best understood as composite material particulars. At a high level of taxonomic classification groups such as mobs, tribes and nations are the same kind of thing as organisms and artefacts. This holism is opposed by ontological individualism, which maintains that in our formal and folk social scientific discourse we only really refer to individuals and the relations in which they stand. The paper begins from the claim that ontological (...)holism is given prima facie plausibility by the apparently ineliminable role of groups in some descriptions and explanations of the social domain. If the individualist accepts the link between indispensabilty and realism, then individualism must show that groups cannot play the role the holist requires. Three arguments are considered which aim to show that groups are indeed unfitted for this ineliminable role: the appeal to reduction-in principle, the claim that groups cannot possess the causal powers attributed to them by holism, and the view that holism is committed to the attribution of mental properties to groups. Each is rejected as a basis for undermining holism. The paper concludes that this leaves holism in a position to be articulated within a framework that supports a broadly naturalist conception of the social sciences. (shrink)
This paper begins with an examination of Amelie Rorty’s claim that although “emotions cannot be rational in the narrow sense of being logically derived from accepted premises, they can be deemed rational . . . as ‘appropriately formed to serve our thriving.’” This is the background against which (i) I develop a notion of ‘emotional holism’ based on the aetiology of emotion in infantile phantasy; and (ii) introduce a dark corollary about the likelihood that our emotions do not, on (...) the whole, match the myths we use to describe them to ourselves. The paper has five sections: (1) The Rationality of Kinds of Emotion and the Argument Against the Rationality of Particular Emotions; (2) Alternative Views of the Rationality of Emotions; (3) Is EmotionaI Behavior RationaI?; (4) Do Particular Emotions Generally Serve Our Thriving?; and (5) Are There Emotions Not Worth Having?: EmotionaI Holism and Manipulating One’s Emotional Repertoire. (shrink)
Popular visions of holistic health and holistic medicine are not so much reactions to perceived excesses of technological medicine as they are visions of the good life itself and how to attain it. This paper attempts to clarify some of the concepts associated with holistic health and medicine. The particular vision of holistic health presented here is well exemplified in the writings of Plato. First, I examine the scientific concept of holism and argue that, while medicine is inadequately characterized (...) by scientific reductionism, any plausible holistic medicine must make room for a limited scientific reductionism. Next, I analyze the complexity of Plato's usage of health and demonstrate some of the parallels between Plato's thought and popular and scientific visions of holistic health. Finally, I look at what Plato has to say about medical practice and the relation of medicine and philosophy as therapies for the whole person. (shrink)
This paper investigates the varieties of reductionism and realism about causal relations in macroeconometrics. There are two issues, which are kept distinct in the analysis but which are interrelated in the development of econometrics. The first one is the question of the reducibility of causal relations to regularities, measured in statistics by correlations. The second one is the question of the reducibility of causes among macroeconomic aggregates to microeconomic behaviour. It is argued that there is a continuum of possible (...) positions between realism and reductionism for both the questions, but, as far as the second question is concerned, the dominant position of mainstream macroeconometrics is strongly reductionist. The paper defends an integrative approach that emphasizes the gradual nature of many real world cases. (shrink)
Particularists in ethics emphasize that the normative is holistic, and invite us to infer with them that it therefore defies generalization. This has been supposed to present an obstacle to traditional moral theorizing, to have striking implications for moral epistemology and moral deliberation, and to rule out reductive theories of the normative, making it a bold and important thesis across the areas of normative theory, moral epistemology, moral psychology, and normative metaphysics. Though particularists emphasize the importance of the holism (...) of the normative, however, it is not something that they have been able to explain. In this paper I’ll show how to use a small number of simple and, I’ll argue, independently compelling assumptions in order to both predict and explain the holistic features of the normative with respect to the non-normative. The basic idea of the paper is simple. It is that normative claims are holistic because they are general, rather than because they defy generalization. (shrink)
Developing a definition of group selection, and applying that definition to the dispute in the social sciences between methodological holists and methodological individualists, are the two goals of this paper. The definition proposed distinguishes between changes in groups that are due to group selection and changes in groups that are artefacts of selection processes occurring at lower levels of organization. It also explains why the existence of group selection is not implied by the mere fact that fitness values of organisms (...) are sensitive to the composition of groups. And, lastly, the definition explains why group selection need not involve selection for altruism. Group selection is thereby seen as an evolutionary force which is objectively distinct from other evolutionary forces. Applying the distinction between group and individual selection to the holism/individualism dispute has the desirable result that the dispute is not decidable a priori. This way of looking at the dispute yields a conception of individualism which is untainted by atomism and a conception of holism which is unspoiled by hypostatis. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that anti-reductionist moral realism still has trouble explaining supervenience. My main target here will be Russ Shafer-Landau's attempt to explain the supervenience of the moral on the natural in terms of the constitution of moral property instantiations by natural property instantiations. First, though, I discuss a recent challenge to the very idea of using supervenience as a dialectical weapon posed by Nicholas Sturgeon. With a suitably formulated supervenience thesis in hand, I try to show how (...) Shafer-Landau's proffered strategy to explain supervenience not only fails to explain supervenience, but that it also has a number of implausible consequences. The more general lesson is that strategies which may work well for explaining supervenience in the philosophy of mind and other areas cannot be assumed to carry over successfully to the metaethical context. We should therefore treat so-called `companions in guilt' arguments in this area of philosophy with considerable skepticism. Key Words: expressivism moral realism non-naturalism reductionism supervenience trope. (shrink)
As opposed to the dismissive attitude toward reductionism that is popular in current philosophy of mind, a “ruthless reductionism” is alive and thriving in “molecular and cellular cognition”—a field of research within cellular and molecular neuroscience, the current mainstream of the discipline. Basic experimental practices and emerging results from this field imply that two common assertions by philosophers and cognitive scientists are false: (1) that we do not know much about how the brain works, and (2) that lower-level (...) neuroscience cannot explain cognition and complex behavior directly. These experimental practices involve intervening directly with molecular components of sub-cellular and gene expression pathways in neurons and then measuring specific behaviors. These behaviors are tracked using tests that are widely accepted by experimental psychologists to study the psychological phenomenon at issue (e.g., memory, attention, and perception). Here I illustrate these practices and their importance for explanation and reduction in current mainstream neuroscience by describing recent work on social recognition memory in mammals. (shrink)
Martha Nussbaum proposes a universal list of human capabilities as the basis for fundamental political principles. She claims that the list, in an Aristotelian spirit, might be justified by an ongoing inquiry into valuable human functionings for the good life. Here I argue that the attractiveness of Nussbaum’s theory crucially depends on the philosophical possibility of a non-reductionist understanding of naturalism and on resolving the tensions between ethical and political aspects of the role of capabilities. Through a comparison of Nussbaum’s (...) approach with those of Aristotle and (less familiarly) Hume, I try to show that in these alternative versions we find valuable resources for the kind of non-reductionist model which might, in line with Nussbaum’s own objectives, provide the basis for a capabilities-based critique of dominant modes of normative theorizing and their influence in public discourse. (shrink)
Moral principles play important roles in diverse areas of moral thought, practice, and theory. Many who think of themselves as ‘moral generalists’ believe that moral principles can play these roles—that they are capable of doing so. Moral generalism maintains that moral principles can and do play these roles because true moral principles are statements of general moral fact (i.e. statements of facts about the moral attributes of kinds of actions, kinds of states of affairs, etc.) and because general moral facts (...) explain particular moral facts (i.e. facts about the moral attributes of particulars). Moral holism maintains that what is a moral reason to in one case may not be one in another, and may even be a moral reason not to given suitable circumstances. Some ‘moral particularists’ maintain that moral holism motivates scepticism about the existence of and need for moral principles, along with scepticism about the viability of principle-based approaches to ethics and moral theory. But I argue that moral holism is itself a form of moral generalism, one that takes facts about the right- and wrong-making powers of (generic) moral factors to explain certain particular moral facts—namely, the rightness and wrongness of particular actions. I also argue that a moral-theoretic version of dispositionalism—the view that dispositions, powers, or capacities are the fundamental units of explanation—explains both why moral holism is true and why moral generalism is true. (shrink)
Paleo-compatibilism is the view that the freedom required for moral responsibility is not incompatible with determinism about the factors relevant to moral assessment, since the claim that we are free and the claim that the psychophysical elements are causally determined are true in distinct and incommensurable ways. This is to be accounted for by appealing to the distinction between conventional truth and ultimate truth developed by Buddhist Reductionists. Paleo-compatibilists hold that the illusion of incompatibilism only arises when we illegitimately mix (...) two distinct vocabularies, one concerned with persons, the other concerned with the parts to which persons are reducible. I explore the view, its roots in Buddhist Reductionism, and its prospects. (shrink)
This essay continues my investigation of `syntactic semantics': the theory that, pace Searle's Chinese-Room Argument, syntax does suffice for semantics (in particular, for the semantics needed for a computational cognitive theory of natural-language understanding). Here, I argue that syntactic semantics (which is internal and first-person) is what has been called a conceptual-role semantics: The meaning of any expression is the role that it plays in the complete system of expressions. Such a `narrow', conceptual-role semantics is the appropriate sort of semantics (...) to account (from an `internal', or first-person perspective) for how a cognitive agent understands language. Some have argued for the primacy of external, or `wide', semantics, while others have argued for a two-factor analysis. But, although two factors can be specifiedâ-one internal and first-person, the other only specifiable in an external, third-person wayâ-only the internal, first-person one is needed for understanding how someone understands. A truth-conditional semantics can still be provided, but only from a third-person perspective. (shrink)
We first introduce structural realism as a position in the metaphysics of science, pointing out the way in which this position replaces intrinsic properties with relations so that it amounts to a holistic in contrast to an atomistic metaphysics. We argue in favour of a moderate version of structural realism that puts objects and relations on the same ontological footing and assess the general philosophical arguments for this position. The second section shows how structural realism gains support from quantum physics. (...) The third section explains how structural realism can be applied to the metaphysics of space-time. (shrink)
This chapter argues that dualist vs. reductionist debates adopt an implicit description of consciousness that does not resemble ordinary experience. If one adopts an accurate description of conscious phenomenology along with an understanding of the fundamental differences between correlation, causation and ontological identity, reductionism cannot succeed. However the alternative is not a dualism that places consciousness beyond science. Rather, it is a nonreductionist science of consciousness.
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. (shrink)
This article explores the traditional basis of modern human rights doctrines and exposes some of the systemic shortcomings. It then posits that a number of these problems are advanced via integrating some developments in the philosophy of science and substantive scientific research into legal philosophy. This article argues that supervening holism grounded in quantum mechanics provides an alternative basis to human rights by positing an ontological construct that is congruous with many of the wisdom traditions practiced around the world. (...) Such a foundation exposes a rational imperative for universal human rights and hence appeals to legal pragmatists. (shrink)
Consciousness, Reductionism and the Explanatory Gap: Investigations in Honor of Rudolf Carnap Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-3 DOI 10.1007/s11406-010-9272-7 Authors Leon de Bruin, Institut für Philosophie II, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universitätsstr. 150, 44801 Bochum, Germany Albert Newen, Institut für Philosophie II, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universitätsstr. 150, 44801 Bochum, Germany Journal Philosophia Online ISSN 1574-9274 Print ISSN 0048-3893 Journal Volume Volume 39 Journal Issue Volume 39, Number 1.
The so-called 'Extreme Claim' asserts that reductionism about personal identity leaves each of us with no reason to be specially concerned about his or her own future. Both advocates and opponents of the Extreme Claim, whether of a reductionist or non-reductionist stripe, accept that similar problems do not arise for non-reductionism. In this paper I challenge this widely held assumption.
Holistic claims about evidence are a commonplace inthe philosophy of science; holistic claims aboutmeaning are a commonplace in the philosophy oflanguage. W. V. Quine has advocated both types ofholism, and argued for an intimate link between thetwo. Semantic holism may be inferred from theconjunction of confirmation holism andverificationism, he maintains. But in their recentbook Holism: a Shopper's Guide, Jerry Fodor andErnest Lepore (1992) claim that this inference isfallacious. In what follows, I defend Quine's argumentfor semantic holism (...) from Fodor and Lepore'smulti-pronged attack. (shrink)
I compare two competing positions regarding relations between sciences: reductionism and explanatory pluralism. I argue that reductionism is not warranted by evidence from scientific practice, but on the other hand, it is important to emphasize certain fundamental differences between generalizations and explanations of different levels. To show this, I take up Woodward’s notion of invariance, arguing that lower-level generalizations generally have a higher degree of invariance under interventions than higher-level generalizations. Since degree of invariance tracks degree of explanatory (...) depth, lower-level explanations are in this sense better than higher-level ones. (shrink)
I examine the argument that scientific theories are typically 'underdetermined' by the data, an argument which has often been used to combat scientific realism. I deal with two objections to the underdetermination argument: (i) that the argument conflicts with the holistic nature of confirmation, and (ii) that the argument rests on an untenable theory/data dualism. I discuss possible responses to both objections, and argue that in both cases the proponent of underdetermination can respond in ways which are individually plausible, but (...) that the best response to the first objection conflicts with the best response to the second. Consequently underdetermination poses less of a problem for scientific realism than has often been thought. (shrink)