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Summary Philosophers across the 'high-level' sciences, e.g., all sciences except fundamental physics, have asked how the events and processes studied and explained in a particular science relate to those at 'lower levels.' This section addresses this broader topic in the philosophy of science via examples from biology in particular, considering whether biological phenomena--from ecology, evolution, physiology, and genetics--reduce to other sciences--either subfields of biology itself or those outside of it. Philosophers of biology usually understand reductionism in explanatory--rather than syntactic--terms.
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  1. The Artificial Cell, the Semipermeable Membrane, and the Life That Never Was, 1864–1901.Daniel Liu - 2019 - Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 49 (5):504-555.
    Since the early nineteenth century a membrane or wall has been cenptral to the cell’s identity as the elementary unit of life. Yet the literally and metaphorically marginal status of the cell membrane made it the site of clashes over the definition of life and the proper way to study it. In this article I show how the modern cell membrane was conceived of by analogy to the first “artificial cell,” invented in 1864 by the chemist Moritz Traube (1826–1894), and (...)
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  2. Two Dogmas of Biology.Leonore Fleming - 2017 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 9 (2).
    The problem with reductionism in biology is not the reduction, but the implicit attitude of determinism that usually accompanies it. Methodological reductionism is supported by deterministic beliefs, but making such a connection is problematic when it is based on an idea of determinism as fixed predictability. Conflating determinism with predictability gives rise to inaccurate models that overlook the dynamic complexity of our world, as well as ignore our epistemic limitations when we try to model it. Furthermore, the assumption of a (...)
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  3. Studies in the Philosophy of Biology: Reduction and Related Problems.[author unknown] - 1977 - Journal of the History of Biology 10 (2):370-371.
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  4. Presentation: Darwinism and Social Science: Is There Any Hope for the Reductionist?Jesús P. Zamora Bonilla - 2003 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 18 (3):255-257.
  5. The Non-Reductive Molecular Basis of Life.C. A. H. Bigger & C. P. Bigger - 1983 - der 16. Weltkongress Für Philosophie 2:194-199.
    The biochemical study of the simplest living systems does not yield the mechanistic results promised by those who deny that life is an irreducible parameter. We show through the complex mechanisms concerned with the replication, repair, and defense of DNA that organisms are organized to maintain their integrity. Mutations and evolution are not always random effects of environmental causes, for the organism is to some extent able to control chance.
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  6. Marie I. Kaiser, Reductive Explanation in the Biological Sciences. Reviewed By.Bradford Lee McCall - 2016 - Philosophy in Review 36 (5):209-210.
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  7. Review of Reductive Explanation in the Biological Sciences by Marie Kaiser. [REVIEW]Ingo Brigandt - 2016 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 201608.
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  8. A Vital Challenge to Materialism.Jesse M. Mulder - 2016 - Philosophy 91 (2):153-182.
    Life poses a threat to materialism. To understand the phenomena of animate nature, we make use of a teleological form of explanation that is peculiar to biology, of explanations in terms of what I call the ‘vital categories’ – and this holds even for accounts of underlying physico-chemical ‘mechanisms’. The materialist claims that this teleological form of explanation does not capture what is metaphysically fundamental, whereas her preferred physical form of explanation does. In this essay, I do three things. (1) (...)
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  9. Conservative Reductionism.Michael Esfeld & Christian Sachse - 2011 - Routledge.
    _Conservative Reductionism_ sets out a new theory of the relationship between physics and the special sciences within the framework of functionalism. It argues that it is wrong-headed to conceive an opposition between functional and physical properties and to build an anti-reductionist argument on multiple realization. By contrast, all properties that there are in the world, including the physical ones, are functional properties in the sense of being causal properties, and all true descriptions that the special sciences propose can in principle (...)
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  10. Levels of Organization: A Deflationary Account.Markus8 Eronen - 2015 - Biology and Philosophy 30 (1):39-58.
    The idea of levels of organization plays a central role in the philosophy of the life sciences. In this article, I first examine the explanatory goals that have motivated accounts of levels of organization. I then show that the most state-of-the-art and scientifically plausible account of levels of organization, the account of levels of mechanism proposed by Bechtel and Craver, is fundamentally problematic. Finally, I argue that the explanatory goals can be reached by adopting a deflationary approach, where levels of (...)
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  11. Neural Mechanisms: On the Structure, Function, and Development of Theories in Neurobiology.Carl Frederick Craver - 1998 - Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh
    Reference to mechanisms is virtually ubiquitous in science and its philosophy. Yet, the concept of a mechanism remains largely unanalyzed; So too for its possible applications in thinking about scientific explanation, experimental practice, and theory structure. This dissertation investigates these issues in the context of contemporary neurobiology. ;The theories of neurobiology are hierarchically organized descriptions of mechanisms that explain functions. Mechanisms are the coordinated activities of entities by virtue of which that function is performed. Since the activities composing mechanisms are (...)
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  12. Biology, Physics and Reductionism.F. Cizek - 1979 - Filosoficky Casopis 27 (4):488-503.
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  13. The Conference on'Problems of Reduction in Biology'was Held in Villa Serbelloni, Bellagio, Italy, From 9 to 16 September 1972. Francisco J. Ayala Department of Genetics University of California. [REVIEW]Expérimentale des Populations - 1974 - In Francisco Jose Ayala & Theodosius Grigorievich Dobzhansky (eds.), Studies in the Philosophy of Biology: Reduction and Related Problems. University of California Press.
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  14. A Geometric Model of Reduction and Emergence.Peter Medawar - 1974 - In F. Ayala & T. Dobzhansky (eds.), Studies in the Philosophy of Biology. University of California Press. pp. 57--63.
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  15. Higher-Level Descriptions: Why Should We Preserve Them.Charbel Nino El-Hani & Antonio Marcos Pereira - 2000 - In P. B. Andersen, Claus Emmeche, N. O. Finnemann & P. V. Christiansen (eds.), Downward Causation. University of Aarhus Press.
  16. Emergent Biological Principles and the Computational Properties of the Universe: Explaining It or Explaining It Away.P. C. W. Davies - 2004 - Complexity 10 (2):11-15.
  17. Of Men, Molecules, and Reducibility.G. Rickey Welch - 1989 - Bioessays 11 (6):187-190.
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  18. Integration in Biology: Philosophical Perspectives on the Dynamics of Interdisciplinarity.Ingo Brigandt - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):461-465.
    This introduction to the special section on integration in biology provides an overview of the different contributions. In addition to motivating the philosophical significance of analyzing integration and interdisciplinary research, I lay out common themes and novel insights found among the special section contributions, and indicate how they exhibit current trends in the philosophical study of integration. One upshot of the contributed papers is that there are different aspects to and kinds of integration, so that rather than attempting to offer (...)
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  19. Formalization and the Meaning of “Theory” in the Inexact Biological Sciences.James Griesemer - 2013 - Biological Theory 7 (4):298-310.
    Exact sciences are described as sciences whose theories are formalized. These are contrasted to inexact sciences, whose theories are not formalized. Formalization is described as a broader category than mathematization, involving any form/content distinction allowing forms, e.g., as represented in theoretical models, to be studied independently of the empirical content of a subject-matter domain. Exactness is a practice depending on the use of theories to control subject-matter domains and to align theoretical with empirical models and not merely a state of (...)
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  20. Toward a Physical Biology.Suzannah Rutherford - 2011 - Bioessays 33 (6):397-397.
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  21. Thermodynamics, Information, and Evolution: The Problem of Reductionism. [REVIEW]Francisco J. Ayala - 1989 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 11 (1):115 - 120.
  22. Quanta of Life: Atomic Physics and the Reincarnation of Phage.Lily E. Kay - 1992 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 14 (1):3 - 21.
    I will use the history of phage to focus on the issue of biological explanations; on the relationship between biology and physics; and on the historical problem of the disciplinary autonomy of biology, versus its reduction, which ultimately seeks to place it within the domain of the physical sciences. Paradoxically, the two physicists I focus on most, Neils Bohr and Max Delbrück, represent attempts to preserve the autonomy of biology, each in a very complex way. Once again the problematique here (...)
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  23. Reduction of Biological Properties by Means of Functional Sub-Types.Christian Sachse - 2005 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 27 (3/4):435 - 449.
    The general aim of this paper is to propose a reductionist strategy to higher-level property types. Starting from a common ground in the philosophy of science, I shall elaborate on possible realizer differences of higher-level property types. Because of the realizer types' causal heterogeneity, an introduction of functional sub-types of higher-level properties will be suggested. Each higher-level functional sub-type corresponds to one realizer type. This means that there is the theoretical possibility to reach some kind of type-identity and this opens (...)
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  24. Laws, Causation, and Explanation in the Special Sciences.Jaegwon Kim - 2005 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 27 (3/4):325 - 338.
    There is the general philosophical question concerning the relationship between physics, which is often taken to be our fundamental and all-encompassing science, on one hand and the special sciences, such as biology and psychology, each of which deals with phenomena in some specially restricted domain, on the other. This paper deals with a narrower question: Are there laws in the special sciences, laws like those we find, or expect to find, in basic physics? Three arguments that are intended to show (...)
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  25. Expanding the Framework of the Holism/Reductionism Debate in Neo-Darwinism: The Case of Theodosius Dobzhansky and Bernhard Rensch.Richard G. Delisle - 2008 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 30 (2):207 - 226.
    The holism/reductionism debate in evolutionary biology has often been analysed as involving two main phenomenological levels within neo-Darwinism: genetic and organismic. This analytical framework assumes that explanation in evolution is either found in the field of genetics or the field of organismic biology. It is argued here that this framework is far too restrictive to incorporate what at least some founding members of neo-Darwinism had in mind in their search for the ultimate cause of evolution. Dobzhansky's "super-holism" locates this drive (...)
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  26. Self-Organization, Emergent Properties and the Unity of the World.Gerhard Roth & Helmut Schwegler - 1990 - Philosophica 46.
  27. Quantum Aspects of Life: Relating Evolutionary Biology with Theology Via Modern Physics.Anna Ijjas - 2013 - Zygon 48 (1):60-76.
    In the present paper, I shall argue that quantum theory can contribute to reconciling evolutionary biology with the creation hypothesis. After giving a careful definition of the theological problem, I will, in a first step, formulate necessary conditions for the compatibility of evolutionary theory and the creation hypothesis. In a second step, I will show how quantum theory can contribute to fulfilling these conditions. More precisely, I claim that (1) quantum probabilities are best understood in terms of ontological indeterminism, but (...)
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  28. Relations in Biomedical Ontologies.Barry Smith, Werner Ceusters, Bert Klagges, Jacob Köhler, Anand Kuma, Jane Lomax, Chris Mungall, , Fabian Neuhaus, Alan Rector & Cornelius Rosse - 2005 - Genome Biology 6 (5):R46.
    To enhance the treatment of relations in biomedical ontologies we advance a methodology for providing consistent and unambiguous formal definitions of the relational expressions used in such ontologies in a way designed to assist developers and users in avoiding errors in coding and annotation. The resulting Relation Ontology can promote interoperability of ontologies and support new types of automated reasoning about the spatial and temporal dimensions of biological and medical phenomena.
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  29. A Non-Newtonian Newtonian Model of Evolution: The ZFEL View.Robert N. Brandon - 2010 - Philosophy of Science 77 (5):702-715.
  30. Reflections on Path Dependence and Irreversibility: Lessons From Evolutionary Biology.Eric Desjardins - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (5):724-738.
    This essay examines the claim “path dependence entails irreversibility” from the point of view of evolutionary biology. I argue that evolutionary irreversibility possesses many faces, sometimes conflicting with path dependence. I propose an account of path dependence that does not rely on irreversibility and explains why it more naturally coexists with the notion of (contingent) irreversibility developed by the Belgian paleontologist Louis Dollo. However, I argue that we should not conceive of this relationship as necessary.
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  31. Studying Populations Without Molecular Biology: Aster Models and a New Argument Against Reductionism.Emily Grosholz - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (2):246-251.
    During the past few decades, philosophers of biology have debated the issue of reductionism versus anti-reductionism, with both sides often claiming a ‘pluralist’ position. However, both sides also tend to focus on a single research paradigm, which analyzes living things in terms of certain macromolecular components. I offer a case study where biologists pursue other analytic pathways, in a tradition of quantitative genetics that originates with the initially purely mathematical theories of R. A. Fisher, J. B. S. Haldane, and Sewall (...)
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  32. Emergence : Between Reductive and Non Reductive Explanations : Does It Make Sense?Alfredo Pérez Martínez - 2009 - In González Recio & José Luis (eds.), Philosophical Essays on Physics and Biology. G. Olms.
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  33. Drosophila Genetics: A Reductionist Research Program.Nils Roll-Hansen - 1978 - Journal of the History of Biology 11 (1):159 - 210.
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  34. Diffusion Theory in Biology: A Relic of Mechanistic Materialism. [REVIEW]Paul S. Agutter, P. Colm Malone & Denys N. Wheatley - 2000 - Journal of the History of Biology 33 (1):71 - 111.
    Diffusion theory explains in physical terms how materials move through a medium, e.g. water or a biological fluid. There are strong and widely acknowledged grounds for doubting the applicability of this theory in biology, although it continues to be accepted almost uncritically and taught as a basis of both biology and medicine. Our principal aim is to explore how this situation arose and has been allowed to continue seemingly unchallenged for more than 150 years. The main shortcomings of diffusion theory (...)
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  35. Biological Reductionism and World View.R. S. Karpinskaia - 1980 - Russian Studies in Philosophy 19 (1):49-68.
    The timeliness of the problem of reduction is due above all to the successes of application of the techniques of the exact sciences in biology. To the extent that molecular biology "gets down to" the initial, fundamental mechanisms of the processes of life, it is impossible for it to remain purely in the realm of statement of facts; it cannot but affect methodological principles of the study of life. "The history of biology clearly demonstrates the striking regularity with which the (...)
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  36. Biological and Physicochemical Explanations in Experimental Biology.William A. Rottschaefer - 2008 - Biological Theory 3 (4):380-390.
  37. Le réductionnisme en biologie.Bernard Feltz - 1995 - Revue Philosophique De Louvain 93 (1):9-32.
    Reductionism in biology concerns the relations between biology and physico-chemic sciences. It is both historically and epistemologically analysed. Two historical moments are studied: the origins of the cell theory and the contact between cell theory and mendellian genetic. Epistemological analysis concerns first the peculiarity of functional explanation. Logical analysis is complemented by a tentative reduction of the function of hemoglobin to his biochemical structure. Second, reduction between theories will be analysed. Finally, the convergence between historical and epistemological analysis will be (...)
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  38. Réduction et explication mécaniste en biologie.Werner Callebaut - 1995 - Revue Philosophique De Louvain 93 (1):33-66.
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  39. Why the Problem of Reductionism in Biology has Implications for Economics.Geoffrey M. Hodgson - 1993 - World Futures 37 (2):69-90.
    For several decades, economists have been preoccupied with an attempt to place their entire subject on the ‘sound microfoundations’ of general equilibrium theory, with its individualistic premises. However, this project has run into seemingly intractable problems. This essay examines underlying questions such as the appropriate building block of analysis and the structure of explanation in economics. The examination of biology is found to be instructive, due to debates concerning the limitations of reductionism within that discipline. The final part of the (...)
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  40. The Characterization of Systems Identity in the Physical and the Biological Sciences.Francis Bailly - 1994 - World Futures 42 (1):11-19.
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  41. It is Not Possible to Reduce Biological Explanations to Explanations in Chemistry and/or Physics.John Dupré - 2010 - In Francisco José Ayala & Robert Arp (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology. Wiley-Blackwell.
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  42. It is Possible to Reduce Biological Explanations to Explanations in Chemistry and/or Physics.Evelyn Fox Keller - 2010 - In Francisco José Ayala & Robert Arp (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology. Wiley-Blackwell.
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  43. Darwinian Reductionism, or, How to Stop Worrying and Love Molecular Biology – Alex rosenbergDarwinian Populations and Natural Selection – Peter Godfrey-Smith.Michael Ruse - 2010 - Philosophical Quarterly 60 (238):204-208.
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  44. Against Reduction: A Critical Notice of Molecular Models: Philosophical Papers on Molecular Biology by Sahotra Sarkar.James Maclaurin - 2011 - Biology and Philosophy 26 (1):151-158.
    In Molecular Models: Philosophical Papers on Molecular Biology, Sahotra Sarkar presents a historical and philosophical analysis of four important themes in philosophy of science that have been influenced by discoveries in molecular biology. These are: reduction, function, information and directed mutation. I argue that there is an important difference between the cases of function and information and the more complex case of scientific reduction. In the former cases it makes sense to taxonomise important variations in scientific and philosophical usage of (...)
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  45. Reduction of Supercritical Multiregional Stochastic Models with Fast Migration.Ángeles Rincón, Juan Antonio Alonso & Luis Sanz - 2009 - Acta Biotheoretica 57 (4):479-500.
    In this work we study the behavior of a time discrete multiregional stochastic model for a population structured in age classes and spread out in different spatial patches between which individuals can migrate. The dynamics of the population is controlled both by reproduction-survival and by migration. These processes take place at different time scales in the sense of the latter being much faster than the former. We incorporate the effect of demographic stochasticity into the population, which results in both dynamics (...)
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  46. The Physical Foundation of Biology.Walter M. Elsasser - 1958 - New York: Pergamon Press.
  47. Beyond Reductionism: New Perspectives in the Life Sciences.Arthur Koestler & John R. Smythies (eds.) - 1969 - London: Hutchinson.
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  48. Models in Biology and Physics: What’s the Difference?Darrell Patrick Rowbottom - 2009 - Foundations of Science 14 (4):281-294.
    In Making Sense of Life , Keller emphasizes several differences between biology and physics. Her analysis focuses on significant ways in which modelling practices in some areas of biology, especially developmental biology, differ from those of the physical sciences. She suggests that natural models and modelling by homology play a central role in the former but not the latter. In this paper, I focus instead on those practices that are importantly similar, from the point of view of epistemology and cognitive (...)
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  49. Revisionary Physicalism.John Bickle - 1992 - Biology and Philosophy 7 (4):411-30.
    The focus of much recent debate between realists and eliminativists about the propositional attitudes obscures the fact that a spectrum of positions lies between these celebrated extremes. Appealing to an influential theoretical development in cognitive neurobiology, I argue that there is reason to expect such an “intermediate” outcome. The ontology that emerges is a revisionary physicalism. The argument draws lessons about revisionistic reductions from an important historical example, the reduction of equilibrium thermodynamics to statistical mechanics, and applies them to the (...)
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  50. Beyond Reduction and Pluralism: Toward an Epistemology of Explanatory Integration in Biology.Ingo Brigandt - 2010 - Erkenntnis 73 (3):295-311.
    The paper works towards an account of explanatory integration in biology, using as a case study explanations of the evolutionary origin of novelties-a problem requiring the integration of several biological fields and approaches. In contrast to the idea that fields studying lower level phenomena are always more fundamental in explanations, I argue that the particular combination of disciplines and theoretical approaches needed to address a complex biological problem and which among them is explanatorily more fundamental varies with the problem pursued. (...)
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