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Summary

The subject of interlevel relations concerns the connection between items described by different sciences, from high-level human sciences down to fundamental-level physics. More specifically, philosophers distinguish inter-level relations from purely same-level or intra-level causal relations. For example, the question is not “how does activity in a visual input system cause events in a downstream face-recognition device within the mind?” That is an intra-level question about mental-to-mental causation, and one can answer it by staying within the confines of a psychological theory. Rather, the question is something like “how do neuro-physical parts of the brain realize a face-recognition device?” That is an inter-level question about a neurological-to-mental relation, and one can answer it only by joining items in psychology with those of neuroscience. Philosophers also analyze these inter-level relations in terms of concepts like identity and reduction, or different forms of emergence and supervenience, or part-whole mechanistic relations, or different kinds of realization relations. 

Key works

Regarding the notion of levels in science, Craver 2007 provides a good discussion of the difference between levels understood in terms of parts for mechanisms versus such things as part-whole composition, mere aggregation, and spatial containment. For discussion of the difference between theories about inter-level causal transitions versus inter-level property instantiation or realization relations, see also Cummins 1983, Craver & Bechtel 2007, and the recent anthology Brooks et al 2021. For reduction, important ideas includes reduction as a derivation by bridge principles (Nagel 1961), approximate reduction (Schaffner 1967), an expanded continuum of strong to weak reduction that advertises no bridge laws (Churchland 1979; Hooker 1981; Bickle 1997; Endicott 1998), compositional or mechanistic reduction (Wimsatt 1975; Rosenberg 2006; Bechtel 2007), and functional reduction (Kim 1998; Marras 2002). For emergence, there are views that involve epistemic, metaphysical, synchronic, and diachronic ideas (McLaughlin 1992; Wimsatt 1997; Humphreys 2008; Wilson 2013), as well as issues about actual cases in the sciences (Batterman 2002; Davies 2006). For supervenience, there are weak, strong, global, and mereological varieties (Kim 1993; Horgan 1993; McLaughlin 1995; Paull & Sider 1992), as well as debates over their significance for issues of explanation and dependence (Grimes 1988; Bennett 2004) and their adequacy to express a doctrine of physicalism (Wilson 2005). For realization, the are accounts in terms of functional roles and occupation (Papineau 1993; Melnyk 1994; Kim 1998), parts and wholes of mechanisms (Cummins 1983; Gillett 2002; Craver 2007), determinables and determinates (MacDonald & MacDonald 1986; Yablo 1992; Wilson 2009), and subsets of causal powers (Wilson 1999, 2011; Shoemaker 2001, 2007). There is also an interesting discussion of inter-level explanation in terms of why questions and answers by grounds in Skow 2016.

Introductions Some works have a fairly broad scope, encompassing several of the views just mentioned. See Beckermann et al 1992; van Gulick 2001; and Kim 2003.
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  1. Rethinking Thomas Kuhn’s Legacy.Yafeng Shan (ed.) - forthcoming - Cham: Springer.
    Thomas Kuhn is widely considered as one of the most important philosophers of science in the 20th century and his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is regarded as one of the most influential works in the philosophy of science. This book not only revisits his legacy in the history and philosophy of science but also explores and reflects on the prospect of the Kuhnian philosophy. Moreover, it includes the edited text of Kuhn’s ‘Does Knowledge Grow?’, which was never published before. (...)
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  2. A Commentary on Robin Hendry’s Views on Molecular Structure, Emergence and Chemical Bonding.Eric Scerri - 2023 - In João L. Cordovil, Gil Santos & Davide Vecchi (eds.), New Mechanism Explanation, Emergence and Reduction. Springer. pp. 161 - 177.
    In this article I examine several related views expressed by Robin Hendry concerning molecular structure, emergence and chemical bonding. There is a long-standing problem in the philosophy of chemistry arising from the fact that molecular structure cannot be strictly derived from quantum mechanics. Two or more compounds which share a molecular formula, but which differ with respect to their structures, have identical Hamiltonian operators within the quantum mechanical formalism. As a consequence, the properties of all such isomers yield precisely the (...)
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  3. Interdisciplinary Imagination and Actionability: Reflections on the Future of Interdisciplinarity.Machiel Keestra - 2019 - Issues in Interdisciplinary Studies 2 (37):110-129.
    When introduced around 1925, interdisciplinarity, grounded in the notion of the unity of knowledge, was meant to reconnect the fragmented and specialized disciplines of academia. However, interdisciplinary research became more and more challenging as the plurality and heterogeneity of disciplinary perspectives and insights increased. Insisting on this divergence and diversity, Julie Thompson Klein has nonetheless contributed in important ways to convergence in interdisciplinarity with her work on the process of integration as interdisciplinarity's defining feature. Of course, she is aware that (...)
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  4. Limits of Conceivability in the Study of the Future. Lessons from Philosophy of Science.Veli Virmajoki - forthcoming - Futures.
    In this paper, the epistemological and conceptual limits of our ability to conceive and reason about future possibilities are analyzed. It is argued that more attention should be paid in futures studies on these epistemological and conceptual limits. Drawing on three cases from philosophy of science, the paper argues that there are deep epistemological and conceptual limits in our ability to conceive and reason about alternatives to the current world. The nature and existence of these limits are far from obvious (...)
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  5. Philosophy of Science.Alik Pelman - 2022 - Israel: Open University Press.
  6. Scientific imperialism, pluralism, and folk morality.Adrian Walsh & Sandy C. Boucher - 2018 - In A. Walsh, U. Maki & M. F. Pinto (eds.), Scientific Imperialism. pp. 13-30.
    Current debates over so-called ‘scientific imperialism’, on one plausible reading, explore significant general issues about the proper boundaries between distinct disciplines. They raise questions about whether some forms of territorial expansion by scientific disciplines into other domains of inquiry are undesirable. Clearly there is a strong normative undercurrent here, as the use of the pejorative term ‘imperialism’ would indicate. However, we face a genuine puzzle here: why should we regard some forms of expansion as illegitimate? Why should any particular boundaries (...)
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  7. From Life-Like to Mind-Like Explanation: Natural Agency and the Cognitive Sciences.Alex Djedovic - 2020 - Dissertation, University of Toronto, St. George Campus
    This dissertation argues that cognition is a kind of natural agency. Natural agency is the capacity that certain systems have to act in accordance with their own norms. Natural agents are systems that bias their repertoires in response to affordances in the pursuit of their goals. Cognition is a special mode of this general phenomenon. Cognitive systems are agents that have the additional capacity to actively take their worlds to be certain ways, regardless of whether the world is really that (...)
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  8. Biological Teleology, Reductionism, and Verbal Disputes.Sandy C. Boucher - 2021 - Foundations of Science 26 (4):859-880.
    The extensive philosophical discussions and analyses in recent decades of function-talk in biology have done much to clarify what biologists mean when they ascribe functions to traits, but the basic metaphysical question—is there genuine teleology and design in the natural world, or only the appearance of this?—has persisted, as recent work both defending, and attacking, teleology from a Darwinian perspective, attest. I argue that in the context of standard contemporary evolutionary theory, this is for the most part a verbal, rather (...)
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  9. An Empiricist Conception of the Relation Between Metaphysics and Science.Sandy C. Boucher - 2018 - Philosophia 47 (5):1355-1378.
    It is widely acknowledged that metaphysical assumptions, commitments and presuppositions play an important role in science. Yet according to the empiricist there is no place for metaphysics as traditionally understood in the scientific enterprise. In this paper I aim to take a first step towards reconciling these seemingly irreconcilable claims. In the first part of the paper I outline a conception of metaphysics and its relation to science that should be congenial to empiricists, motivated by van Fraassen’s work on ‘stances’. (...)
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  10. Rejoinder to Helen Steward's review of Carrier & Mittelstrass, Mind, Brain, Behavior.Martin Carrier & Jürgen Mittelstrass - 1995 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 9 (1):103-104.
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  11. On the reduction of type theory.Marcel Crabbé - 1983 - Mathematical Logic Quarterly 29 (4):235-237.
  12. What is an element? What is the periodic table? And what does quantum mechanics contribute to the question?Eric R. Scerri - 2011 - Foundations of Chemistry 14 (1):69-81.
    This article considers two important traditions concerning the chemical elements. The first is the meaning of the term “element” including the distinctions between element as basic substance, as simple substance and as combined simple substance. In addition to briefly tracing the historical development of these distinctions, I make comments on the recent attempts to clarify the fundamental notion of element as basic substance for which I believe the term “element” is best reserved. This discussion has focused on the writings of (...)
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  13. Is the Nature of Physical Reality Unknowable?Joel J. Kupperman - 1978 - American Philosophical Quarterly 15 (2):99 - 105.
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  14. The Choice of Facts.Henri Poincaré - 1909 - The Monist 19 (2):231-239.
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  15. Normative all the way down.Stephen Turner - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 36 (2):419-429.
  16. Structural levels in the scientist's world.Harold Chapman Brown - 1916 - Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 13 (13):337-345.
  17. Comments on dr. Hochberg's paper.Richard L. Cartwright - 1956 - Philosophy of Science 23 (3):260-265.
  18. A challenge.C. W. Churchman - 1945 - Philosophy of Science 12 (3):219-220.
    In recent issues of the Journal of Philosophy John Dewey and Arthur Bentley have been making an attack on certain logical positivists and other logicians on the ground, of all things, that they display amazing contempt for clear and consistent definition of the terms they use. That logicians, whose business it is to define consistency, should themselves be inconsistent in the use of their basic terms is not really so surprising. It may merely prove them to be human, the victims (...)
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  19. Class-membership and the ontological problem.James K. Feibleman - 1950 - Philosophy of Science 17 (3):254-259.
    Professor Quine in recent articles has raised an old question, an ontological one, concerning the status of universals. It is interesting to note that the same positions recur in symbolic logic that have appeared so often in the past in less exact language. There can be little doubt that the question he raises is crucial; and if the issue is not yet settled, there is at least some hope that it may be clarified. Propositions are required to make propositions clear.
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  20. Are micro-entities picturable?T. R. Girill - 1976 - Philosophy of Science 43 (4):570-574.
  21. The problem of a fundamental science.Ernst Harms - 1939 - Philosophical Review 48 (1):46-56.
  22. Comments to heelans thesis.Werner Heisenberg & Patrick A. Heelan - 1975 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 6 (1):137-138.
  23. On reduction properties.Hirotaka Kikyo & Akito Tsuboi - 1994 - Journal of Symbolic Logic 59 (3):900-911.
  24. Causal composition and structured wholes: Reply to Robert Causey.Theo A. F. Kuipers - 2005 - Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 84 (1):463-465.
  25. Kinds of micro-explanation: Reply to Erik Weber and Helena de preester.Theo A. F. Kuipers - 2005 - Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 84 (1):187-190.
  26. Constitutions of matter.J. M. - 1998 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 29 (2):277-279.
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  27. The basic question: Monism or dualism?Cecil H. Miller - 1947 - Philosophy of Science 14 (1):1-12.
    This paper is concerned with a question in metaphysics. The question is: Is the world ultimately one, or is it many? It is neither a very profound nor a very complicated question. It is, on the contrary, very simple. But despite its simplicity, it expresses the most basic of all metaphysical problems.When two metaphysical problems, A and B, are so related that the statement of B assumes an answer to A, then we may fairly infer that A is more basic (...)
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  28. Hanson on the unpicturability of micro-entities.Anthony M. Paul - 1971 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 22 (1):50-53.
  29. Concerning the integration of sciences: Kinds and stages. [REVIEW]A. Polikarov - 1995 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 26 (2):297 - 312.
    The detailed analysis allows to discern seven kinds of integration, namely: I₁ consisting in the synthesis of scientific disciplines from their elements, including disciplinary unification I₁; I₂ inclusion of a science in (reduction to) another, more general; I₃ - links between different sciences, especially establishing of common elements; I₄ - interdisciplines bridging various sciences; I₅ - combination of two (or more) disciplines into a new (complex) science; I₆ - a general approach to several domains or multidisciplinary unification; I₇ - transdisciplinary (...)
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  30. Outline of an emergent theory of value.K. R. Srinivasiengar - 1935 - International Journal of Ethics 45 (4):413-421.
  31. A reply to Jones.Daniel Steel - 1998 - Philosophy of Science 65 (4):682-687.
  32. On the d-thesis.J. W. Swanson - 1967 - Philosophy of Science 34 (1):59-68.
    Reanimated for the contemporary literature in the writings of Quine, [16]) and Kuhn [7], the conventionalism of Duhem [2] and Poincaré [12] has emerged in the last few years as one of the genuinely interesting topics in the philosophy of science. The theory in question—let us follow Grünbaum [3] in calling it the D-thesis, after its founder, Pierre Duhem—claims three things: a single scientific hypothesis H is never disconfirmable in isolation from its fellow; every single hypothesis H of science presupposes, (...)
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  33. Apunte sobre la indistinguibilidad.Enric Trillas - 1993 - Theoria 8 (1):23-49.
    A través de una serie de ejemplos matemáticos elementales se Ilega a proponer una definición bastante general de Indistinguibilidad, por medio de operadores con valores en semigrupos conmutativos ordenados. Tal definición se aplica a casos provenientes de diversos campos, muchos de los cuales exhiban la propiedad da rotura de las cadenas de objetos relacionados a causa de un cierto parecido.
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  1. From classical to quantum, from physics to philosophy: Benjamin H. Feintzeig: The classical-quantum correspondence. Cambridge Elements in the philosophy of physics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022, 97 pp, $22 PB. [REVIEW]Eugene Y. S. Chua - 2023 - Metascience 33 (1):65-68.
  2. Two Forms of Functional Reductionism in Physics.Lorenzo Lorenzetti - 2024 - Synthese 203 (2).
    Functional reductionism characterises inter-theoretic reduction as the recovery of the upper-level behaviour described by the reduced theory in terms of the lower-level reducing theory. For instance, finding a statistical mechanical realiser that plays the functional role of thermodynamic entropy allows for establishing a reductive link between thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. This view constitutes a unique approach to reduction that enjoys a number of positive features, but has received limited attention in the philosophy of science. -/- This paper aims to clarify (...)
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  3. Pluralismo Ontológico.Axel Arturo Barcelo Aspeitia - 2023 - Enciclopedia de la Sociedad Española de Filosofía Analítica.
    a cuestión de si la realidad es homogénea o heterogénea es uno de los debates más antiguos de la filosofía occidental y se repite en prácticamente todas las tradiciones filosóficas del mundo. Hay tres motivaciones principales para adoptar una visión heterogénea de la realidad: para dar cuenta de errores categoriales, para resolver paradojas, y para respetar la aparente heterogeneidad de nuestra experiencia, pensamiento y lenguaje. A continuación, revisaremos cada una de ellas, para después ver los principales retos que enfrenta quién (...)
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  4. Fundamental Things: Theory and Applications of Grounding.Louis deRosset - 2023 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
    The scientific successes of the last 400 years strongly suggest a view on which things are organized into layers, with phenomena in higher layers dependent on and determined by what goes on below. Philosophers have recently explored the idea that we can make sense of this idea by appeal to a relation called grounding. This book develops the rudiments of a theory of grounding, and applies that theory to questions of independent interest. The theorizing consists in saying in more detail (...)
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  5. Functionalising the wavefunction.Lorenzo Lorenzetti - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 96 (C):141-153.
    Functionalism is the view that being x is to play the role of x. This paper defends a functionalist account of three-dimensional entities in the context of Wave Function Realism (WFR), that can explain in detail how we can recover three-dimensional entities out of the wavefunction. In particular, the essay advocates for a novel version of WFR in terms of a functional reductionist approach in the style of David Lewis. This account entails reduction of the upper entities to the bottom (...)
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  6. Two Approaches to Reduction: A Case Study from Statistical Mechanics.Bixin Guo - forthcoming - Philosophy of Science:1-36.
    I argue that there are two distinct approaches to understanding reduction: the ontology-first approach and the theory-first approach. They concern the relation between ontological reduction and inter-theoretic reduction. Further, I argue for the significance of this distinction by demonstrating that either one or the other approach has been taken as an implicit assumption in, and has in fact shaped, our understanding of what statistical mechanics is. More specifically, I argue that the Boltzmannian framework of statistical mechanics assumes and relies on (...)
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  7. Metafisica dell'emergenza.Erica Onnis - 2021 - Turin: Rosenberg & Sellier.
    Negli ultimi anni, il richiamo al concetto di emergenza si è fatto sempre più diffuso in molte aree della filosofia e della scienza. Il termine viene usato per riferirsi alla circostanza in cui un sistema (fisico, chimico, biologico, ma anche sociale) manifesta delle proprietà e dei comportamenti che sembrano nuovi rispetto a quelli delle sue parti più semplici. Questo libro si propone di chiarire questo fenomeno, tenendo conto, da un lato, che le discipline coinvolte nel dibattito sono molte, quindi un (...)
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  8. Contingent Grounding.Nathaniel Baron-Schmitt - 2021 - Synthese 199 (1-2):4561-4580.
    A popular principle about grounding, “Internality”, says that if A grounds B, then necessarily, if A and B obtain, then A grounds B. I argue that Internality is false. Its falsity reveals a distinctive, new kind of explanation, which I call “ennobling”. Its falsity also entails that every previously proposed theory of what grounds grounding facts is false. I construct a new theory.
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  9. Introducción a la Ontología.Axel Barceló - manuscript
    Intuitivamente, la realidad está formada por entidades y hechos existentes y concretos. Sin embargo, nuestro lenguaje y pensamiento versa también sobre hechos meramente posibles, sobre cosas inexistentes y entidades abstractas. ¿Cómo es esto posible? ¿Significa ello que cuando hablamos y pensamos de estas otras cosas no hablamos de nada real? ¿o mas bien la realidad está mas poblada de lo que pensábamos y hay diferentes maneras de formar parte de la realidad además de la de existir de manera positiva y (...)
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  10. Emergence without limits: The case of phonons.Alexander Franklin & Eleanor Knox - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 64 (C):68-78.
    Recent discussions of emergence in physics have focussed on the use of limiting relations, and often particularly on singular or asymptotic limits. We discuss a putative example of emergence that does not fit into this narrative: the case of phonons. These quasi-particles have some claim to be emergent, not least because the way in which they relate to the underlying crystal is almost precisely analogous to the way in which quantum particles relate to the underlying quantum field theory. But there (...)
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  11. Two Concepts of Reduction.William G. Lycan - 1986 - Journal of Philosophy 83 (11):693-694.
  12. Reduction or Subtraction.Adam S. Miller - 2007 - Philosophy Today 51 (Supplement):23-32.
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  13. L’intentionnalité et Ie problème de la réduction de la psychologie.Alexandre Métraux - 1986 - Études Phénoménologiques 2 (4):75-95.
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  14. Ontological Reduction. [REVIEW]Harold Hodes - 1975 - Philosophical Review 84 (3):439.
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  15. The Structure of Science: Problems in the Logic of Scientific Explanation. [REVIEW]Charles E. Caton - 1964 - Philosophical Review 73 (1):104-106.
  16. La force des dispositifs faibles : la politique de réduction des risques en matière de drogues.Jean-Yves Trépos - 2003 - Cahiers Internationaux de Sociologie 1 (1):93-108.
    La conversion de la France à une politique de « réduction des risques » , est généralement interprétée comme l’indice d’un changement de paradigme en matière de toxicomanie. Il est néanmoins possible de la voir comme une forme de réagencement politique du monde des consommations de drogues, visant à définir de nouveaux seuils, les plus bas possibles, pour l’entrée dans des dispositifs de soin et de service. L’examen des visions du monde sur lesquelles reposent ces équipements politiques, en France comme (...)
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  17. Identity-Based Reduction and Reductive Explanation.Raphael van Riel - 2011 - Philosophia Naturalis 48 (1):185-221.
1 — 50 / 1402