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Summary

Philosophers use “theory reduction” as a term of art to denote the scientific practice whereby a more basic theory expresses or otherwise captures the facts and principles described by a less basic theory. The reducing theory thus preserves the ontology of the reduced theory, at least in ideal cases. Accordingly, theory reduction contrasts with “theory replacement” according to which a less basic theory and its ontology are rejected.

Key works

One important topic concerns the logic of reduction or how it is best conceived. Major ideas includes reduction as a derivation by bridge principles (Nagel 1961), the role of identities in bridge principles (Sklar 1967), approximate reduction (Schaffner 1967), an expanded continuum of strong to weak reduction that advertises no bridge laws (Churchland 1979; Bickle 1997), compositional or mechanistic reduction (Wimsatt 1976; Bechtel 2007), and functional reduction (Kim 1998). Other important topics concern the analysis of scientific cases (Kitcher 1984; Bickle 2005), the nature of theories as sentential items versus models (SUPPES 1957), issues of intralevel versus interlevel competition (McCauley 1986), how the co-evolution of theories might affect the prospects for or the interpretation of reduction (Churchland 1986; Endicott 1998), cases wherein a less basic and unreduced theory is retained rather than replaced (Fodor 1974; Rosenberg 2006), and the phenomenon of multiple realizability that underlies the non-reduced status of such theories (Bechtel 1999; Batterman 2000; Shapiro 2004; Aizawa & Gillett 2009).

Introductions A paper by Robert McCauley (McCauley web, published in Thagard 2007), provides a nice introduction to theory reduction with an eye to psychology and neuroscience, including discussion of old and new views. Ingo Brigandt and Alan Love (Brigandt & Love 2008) offer a fairly comprehensive and historically sensitive introduction to reduction for the biological sciences.
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146 found
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  1. added 2019-12-06
    La explicación del concepto de reducción.Andoni Ibarra & Thomas Mormann - 1988 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 4 (1):139-161.
    The aim of this paper is twofold: on the one hand we want to make a contribution to the ongoing debate concerning an adequate explication of the concept of reduction. On the other hand we deal with the explication of the concept of explication itself. More precisely, first we discuss some current explicata of explication, then we show that they are inadequate for explication of concepts like implication, reduction, etc. Finally we propose a new and more adequate explicatum of explication (...)
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  2. added 2019-12-06
    Review: Ronald Yoshida's Reduction in the Physical Sciences. [REVIEW]Paul Teller - 1980 - Noûs 14 (1):136 - 30.
  3. added 2019-12-06
    S. Morgenbesser, P. Suppes, and M. White (Eds.). Philosophy, Science, and Method: Essays in Honor of Ernest Nagel.Marshall Spector - 1971 - Metaphilosophy 2 (3):251–267.
  4. added 2019-06-06
    The Emergence of the Macroworld: A Study of Intertheory Relations in Classical and Quantum Mechanics.Malcolm R. Forster & Alexey Kryukov - 2003 - Philosophy of Science 70 (5):1039-1051.
    Classical mechanics is empirically successful because the probabilistic mean values of quantum mechanical observables follow the classical equations of motion to a good approximation (Messiah 1970, 215). We examine this claim for the one-dimensional motion of a particle in a box, and extend the idea by deriving a special case of the ideal gas law in terms of the mean value of a generalized force used to define "pressure." The examples illustrate the importance of probabilistic averaging as a method of (...)
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  5. added 2019-06-06
    Kim On Reduction.Ausonio Marras - 2002 - Erkenntnis 57 (2):231-257.
    In "Mind in a Physical World", Jaegwon Kim has recently extended his ongoing critique of 'non-reductive materialist' positions in philosophy of mind by arguing that Nagel's model of reduction is the wrong paradigm in terms of which to contest the issue of psychophysical reduction, and that an altogether different model of scientific reduction -- a functional model of reduction -- is needed. In this paper I argue, first, that Kim's conception of the Nagelian model is substantially impoverished and potentially misleading; (...)
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  6. added 2019-06-06
    Intertheoretic Relations as a Tool for the Rational Reconstruction of Scientific Development.Lorenz Krüger - 1980 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 11 (2):89.
  7. added 2019-04-22
    Reduction.Andreas Hüttemann & Alan Love - 2016 - In Paul Humphreys (ed.), The Oxford Handbook in Philosophy of Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 460-484.
    Reduction and reductionism have been central philosophical topics in analytic philosophy of science for more than six decades. Together they encompass a diversity of issues from metaphysics and epistemology. This article provides an introduction to the topic that illuminates how contemporary epistemological discussions took their shape historically and limns the contours of concrete cases of reduction in specific natural sciences. The unity of science and the impulse to accomplish compositional reduction in accord with a layer-cake vision of the sciences, the (...)
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  8. added 2019-03-19
    Reduction and Ontological Unification: Reply to McCauley.Robert L. Causey - 1981 - Philosophy of Science 48 (2):228-231.
  9. added 2019-03-19
    Identities and Reduction: A Reply.Robert L. Causey - 1976 - Noûs 10 (3):333-337.
  10. added 2019-03-18
    Nagel on Reduction.Sahotra Sarkar - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 53:43-56.
    This paper attempts a critical reappraisal of Nagel's (1961, 1970) model of reduction taking into account both traditional criticisms and recent defenses. This model treats reduction as a type of explanation in which a reduced theory is explained by a reducing theory after their relevant representational items have been suitably connected. In accordance with the deductive-nomological model, the explanation is supposed to consist of a logical deduction. Nagel was a pluralist about both the logical form of the connections between the (...)
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  11. added 2019-03-18
    Hempel On Intertheoretic Reduction Winner Of The Gerritt And Edith Schipper Undergraduate Award For Outstanding Undergraduate Paper.David Barnett - 2002 - Florida Philosophical Review 2 (1):26-40.
    The question of whether all living things are really just complex physical ones, or whether instead there are biological entities or characteristics that cannot be fully characterized in physical terms, has historical roots buried centuries deep. Carl Hempel considers this question as an empirical one for modern science to address. Hempel’s concern is not with the answer to the question, but rather with the methods by which it may be evaluated. He considers the position of those he calls “mechanists,” that (...)
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  12. added 2019-03-18
    Towards a Typology of Intertheoretical Relations.C. Ulises Moulines - 1992 - In Javier Echeverria, Andoni Ibarra & Thomas Mormann (eds.), The Space of Mathematics: Philosophical, Epistemological, and Historical Explorations. De Gruyter. pp. 403--411.
  13. added 2019-03-18
    Reconceptualizations and Interfield Connections: The Discovery of the Link Between Vitamins and Coenzymes.William Bechtel - 1984 - Philosophy of Science 51 (2):265-292.
    The discovery that some B vitamins are constituents of respiratory coenzymes led to the development of an interfield theory of the kind discussed by Darden and Maull. In this paper it is shown that the development of a useful interfield connection was made possible by two reconceptualizations: a reconceptualization that united two then-distinct fields giving rise to the concept of vitamins as dietary substances; and another reconceptualization that united two approaches to respiratory metabolism producing the idea that coenzymes are transport (...)
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  14. added 2019-03-18
    The Logic and Methodology of Reduction in the Physical and Biological Sciences.Kenneth Francis Schaffner - 1967 - Dissertation, Columbia University
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  15. added 2019-03-18
    Unified Science and Physicalistic Reductionism.W. H. Werkmeister - 1940 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 21 (3):277.
  16. added 2018-12-14
    Spacetime 'Emergence'.Nick Huggett - 2018 - In Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Physics. Routledge.
    Could spacetime be derived rather than fundamental? The question is pressing because attempts to quantize gravity have led to theories in which (arguably) there are either no, or only extremely thin, spacetime structures. Moreover, recent proposals for the interpretation of quantum mechanics have suggested that 3-dimensional space may be an ‘appearance’ derived from the 3N-dimensional space in which an N-particle wavefunction lives (cross- reference). In fact, I will largely assume a positive answer, and investigate how it could be; in particular, (...)
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  17. added 2018-02-25
    Should Explanations Omit the Details?Darren Bradley - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
    There is a widely shared belief that the higher level sciences can provide better explanations than lower level sciences. But there is little agreement about exactly why this is so. It is often suggested that higher level explanations are better because they omit details. I will argue instead that the preference for higher level explanations is just a special case of our general preference for informative, logically strong, beliefs. I argue that our preference for informative beliefs entirely accounts for why (...)
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  18. added 2018-02-16
    Who’s Afraid of Nagelian Reduction?Foad Dizadji-Bahmani, Roman Frigg & Stephan Hartmann - 2010 - Erkenntnis 73 (3):393-412.
    We reconsider the Nagelian theory of reduction and argue that, contrary to a widely held view, it is the right analysis of intertheoretic reduction. The alleged difficulties of the theory either vanish upon closer inspection or turn out to be substantive philosophical questions rather than knock-down arguments.
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  19. added 2017-12-01
    Inter-Theory Relations in Quantum Gravity: Correspondence, Reduction, and Emergence.Karen Crowther - 2017 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics.
    Relationships between current theories, and relationships between current theories and the sought theory of quantum gravity (QG), play an essential role in motivating the need for QG, aiding the search for QG, and defining what would count as QG. Correspondence is the broad class of inter-theory relationships intended to demonstrate the necessary compatibility of two theories whose domains of validity overlap, in the overlap regions. The variety of roles that correspondence plays in the search for QG are illustrated, using examples (...)
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  20. added 2017-05-19
    Renormalizability, Fundamentality and a Final Theory: The Role of UV-Completion in the Search for Quantum Gravity.Karen Crowther & Niels Linnemann - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axx052.
    Principles are central to physical reasoning, particularly in the search for a theory of quantum gravity (QG), where novel empirical data is lacking. One principle widely adopted in the search for QG is UV completion: the idea that a theory should (formally) hold up to all possible high energies. We argue---/contra/ standard scientific practice---that UV-completion is poorly-motivated as a guiding principle in theory-construction, and cannot be used as a criterion of theory-justification in the search for QG. For this, we explore (...)
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  21. added 2017-03-20
    Reduction Sentences and Metaphysics.Manley H. Thompson - 1941 - Philosophical Review 50 (6):610-615.
  22. added 2017-02-14
    Ontology, Reduction, Emergence: A General Frame.C. Ulises Moulines - 2006 - Synthese 151 (3):313-323.
    In a scientific context, ontological commitments should be considered as supervenient over accepted scientific theories. This implies that the primarily ontological notions of reduction and emergence of entities of different kinds should be reformulated in terms of relations between existing empirical theories. For this, in turn, it is most convenient to employ a model-theoretic view of scientific theories: the identity criterion of a scientific theory is essentially given by a class of models. Accordingly, reduction and emergence are to be seen (...)
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  23. added 2017-02-14
    Handshaking Your Way to the Top: Inconsistency and Falsification in Intertheoretic Reduction.Eric Winsberg - 2006 - In Borchert (ed.), Philosophy of Science. Macmillan. pp. 73--582.
  24. added 2017-02-14
    A Case Study on Theory Reduction and its Philosophy of Science1.Shunkichi Matsumoto - 2000 - Annals of the Japan Association for Philosophy of Science 9 (5):255-270.
  25. added 2017-02-14
    A Model of Intertheoretic Reduction.Ernest Nagel - 1999 - In Robert Klee (ed.), Scientific Inquiry: Readings in the Philosophy of Science. Oxford University Press. pp. 106.
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  26. added 2017-02-13
    Minisymposia-IV Substructuring, Dimension Reduction and Applications-Parallel Algorithms for Balanced Truncation Model Reduction of Sparse Systems.Jose M. Badia, Peter Benner, Rafael Mayo & Enrique S. Quintana-Orti - 2006 - In O. Stock & M. Schaerf (eds.), Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer Verlag. pp. 267-275.
  27. added 2017-02-13
    Minisymposia-IV Substructuring, Dimension Reduction and Applications-Structure-Preserving Model Reduction.Ren-Cang Li & Zhaojun Bai - 2006 - In O. Stock & M. Schaerf (eds.), Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer Verlag. pp. 3732--323.
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  28. added 2017-02-13
    On the Reduction of Type Theory.Marcel Crabbé - 1983 - Mathematical Logic Quarterly 29 (4):235-237.
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  29. added 2017-02-12
    Reductionism and Discourse Relativity.D. S. Clarke - 2009 - Philo 12 (1):61-72.
    This paper is an interpretation and defense of Putnam’s claim that reductionist sentences identifying experiences with physical events or processes are meaningless. Discourses are formulated within frameworks that are characterized by their methods of justification, types of term introduction, and vocabularies. Examples of both meaningful intra-framework and meaningless cross-framework identities are considered, along with examples of theoretical identities across sub-frameworks. In agreement with Putnam, mental/physical identities are classified as cross-framework. But I qualify Putnam’s thesis by arguing that they can be (...)
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  30. added 2017-02-10
    Failures of the Reduction Principle in an Ellsberg-Type Problem.Michele Bernasconi & Graham Loomes - 1992 - Theory and Decision 32 (1):77-100.
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  31. added 2017-02-09
    Informal Aspects of Theory Reduction.David L. Hull - 1974 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1974:653 - 670.
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  32. added 2017-02-08
    Jakob Hohwy and Jesper Kallestrup (Eds), Being Reduced: New Essays on Reduction, Explanation, and Causation.M. I. Eronen - 2012 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 63 (1):227-231.
    The notion of reduction continues to play an important role in contemporary analytic philosophy. Being Reduced is a collection of essays that not only presents novel contributions to our understanding of reduction, but also aims at finding connections between the debates in philosophy of mind and philosophy of science, which have surprisingly remained rather detached from each other. Being reduced succeeds in this difficult task, and is a very welcome addition to the growing philosophical literature on reduction.
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  33. added 2017-02-02
    Problem Reduction and its Relevance: Reply to Thomas Nickles.Theo A. F. Kuipers - 2005 - Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 84 (1):134-137.
  34. added 2017-02-01
    Asymptotics, Reduction and Emergence.C. A. Hooker - 2004 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 55 (3):435-479.
    All the major inter-theoretic relations of fundamental science are asymptotic ones, e.g. quantum theory as Planck's constant h 0, yielding (roughly) Newtonian mechanics. Thus asymptotics ultimately grounds claims about inter-theoretic explanation, reduction and emergence. This paper examines four recent, central claims by Batterman concerning asymptotics and reduction. While these claims are criticised, the discussion is used to develop an enriched, dynamically-based account of reduction and emergence, to show its capacity to illuminate the complex variety of inter-theory relationships in physics, and (...)
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  35. added 2017-02-01
    Reduction of Thermodynamics: A Few Problems.Sang Wook Yi - 2003 - Philosophy of Science 70 (5):1028-1038.
    Lawrence Sklar in his book, Physics and Chance (1993), proposes a sophisticated account of reduction of thermodynamics (TD) by statistical mechanics (SM). I argue that Sklar's analysis of the alleged reduction of TD by SM is problematic in several respects. I consider a few counterexamples to show that none of what Sklar takes to be the central features of successful reduction in science (unification and identification) holds in the case of TD and SM. I suggest the broader conclusion that a (...)
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  36. added 2017-02-01
    Reduction as Replacement. [REVIEW]Ron Yoshida - 1981 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 32 (4):400-410.
  37. added 2017-02-01
    Some Intertheoretic Relations Between Ptolemean and Copernican Astronomy.Michael Heidelberger - 1976 - Erkenntnis 10 (3):323 - 336.
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  38. added 2017-01-22
    Marrying the Merits of Nagelian Reduction and Functional Reduction.Michael Esfeld, Christian Sachse & Patrice Soom - 2012 - Acta Analytica 27 (3):217-230.
    This paper points out the merit of Nagelian reduction, namely to propose a model of inter-theoretic reduction that retains the scientific quality of the reduced theory and the merit of functional reduction, namely to take multiple realization into account and to offer reductive explanations. By considering Lewis and Kim’s proposal for local reductions, we establish that functional reduction fails to achieve a theory reduction and cannot retain the scientific quality of the reduced theory. We improve on that proposal by showing (...)
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  39. added 2017-01-21
    Towards a General Theory of Reduction. Part I: Historical and Scientific Setting.C. A. Hooker - 1981 - Dialogue 20 (1):38-59.
  40. added 2017-01-19
    Reduction: Some Criteria and Criticisms of the Structuralist Concept.Hans Rott - 1987 - Erkenntnis 27 (2):231 - 256.
    Inter-theoretical reduction has always been a major topic in the structuralist philosophy of science. This paper reviews criteria of adequacy which were put forward by Adams, Sneed, Stegmuller, Mayr, Pearce, Kamlah, and Mormann. The criteria are formalized in a simplified structuralist model, and the logical relations between them are investigated. It turns out that various parts of these criteria are incompatible.
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  41. added 2017-01-19
    Logical Properties of the Structuralist Concept of Reduction.David Pearce - 1982 - Erkenntnis 18 (3):307 - 333.
  42. added 2017-01-18
    HOT Theory: The Mentalistic Reduction of Consciousness.William E. Seager - 1999 - In Theories of Consciousness: An Introduction and Assessment. Routledge.
  43. added 2017-01-18
    Theorienreduktion in den Sozialwissenschaften. Eine Fallstudie Am Beispiel der Balancetheorien.Klaus Manhart - 1998 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 29 (2):301-326.
    Theory Reduction in the Social Sciences. The example of balance theories. A central topic both in philosophy of science as well as in the empirical sciences is the reconstruction of the relations between theories. In the past comparisons of theories by means of traditional linguistic methods have proved to be extremely difficult and complicated. In this article the reconstruction of intertheoretical relations based on model-theoretical terms is propagated, as formulated within the structuralist view of theories. The efficiency of a model (...)
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  44. added 2017-01-18
    Identity Statements and Microreductions.Berent Enc - 1976 - Journal of Philosophy 73 (June):285-306.
    The view that scientific reduction succeeds by establishing property identities is challenged. it is argued that, instead of identity statements making reductions successful, the fact that a reduction is successful makes the identity statements possible. the argument proceeds first by showing that an explanatory asymmetry is generated by statements expressing property identities, second by locating the source of the asymmetry in a "generative relation" that obtains between the two properties. it is then argued that reduction succeeds only if the reducing (...)
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  45. added 2017-01-18
    The Replacement of Scientific Theories: Reduction and Explication.James Gaa - 1975 - Philosophy of Science 42 (4):349-372.
    An examination of earlier views yields an account of theoretic change on which changes in theory which do involve changes in meanings of terms are classified as a special (and by no means exhaustive) case of theoretic change which, latter, is construed as a more general phenomenon. Only the general problem is given detailed consideration here. The account given considers the problem of how replacement of intensional theories by extensional ones may be treated within the general framework provided. Among its (...)
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  46. added 2017-01-14
    The Devil in the Details: Asymptotic Reasoning in Explanation, Reduction, and Emergence.Robert W. Batterman - 2001 - Oxford University Press USA.
    Batterman examines a form of scientific reasoning called asymptotic reasoning, arguing that it has important consequences for our understanding of what physicists call universal behavior, as well as of the scientific process as a whole.
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  47. added 2016-12-08
    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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  48. added 2016-12-08
    Reconsidering the Role of Bridge Laws In Inter-Theoretical Reductions.Peter Fazekas - 2009 - Erkenntnis 71 (3):303-322.
    The present paper surveys the three most prominent accounts in contemporary debates over how sound reduction should be executed. The classical Nagelian model of reduction derives the laws of the target-theory from the laws of the base theory plus some auxiliary premises (so-called bridge laws) connecting the entities of the target and the base theory. The functional model of reduction emphasizes the causal definitions of the target entities referring to their causal relations to base entities. The new-wave model of reduction (...)
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  49. added 2016-12-08
    Reductionism and its Heuristics: Making Methodological Reductionism Honest.William C. Wimsatt - 2006 - Synthese 151 (3):445-475.
    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 (...)
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  50. added 2016-12-08
    Reduction: The Cheshire Cat Problem and a Return to Roots.Kenneth F. Schaffner - 2006 - Synthese 151 (3):377-402.
    In this paper, I propose two theses, and then examine what the consequences of those theses are for discussions of reduction and emergence. The first thesis is that what have traditionally been seen as robust, reductions of one theory or one branch of science by another more fundamental one are a largely a myth. Although there are such reductions in the physical sciences, they are quite rare, and depend on special requirements. In the biological sciences, these prima facie sweeping reductions (...)
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