Autonomy of Theories: An Explanatory Problem

Noûs:858-873 (2018)
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Abstract

This paper aims to draw attention to an explanatory problem posed by the existence of multiply realized or universal behavior exhibited by certain physical systems. The problem is to explain how it is possible that systems radically distinct at lower-scales can nevertheless exhibit identical or nearly identical behavior at upper-scales. Theoretically this is reflected by the fact that continuum theories such as fluid mechanics are spectacularly successful at predicting, describing, and explaining fluid behaviors despite the fact that they do not recognize the discrete nature of fluids. A standard attempt to reduce one theory to another, is shown to fail to answer the appropriate question about autonomy.

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Robert W. Batterman
University of Pittsburgh

Citations of this work

Whence the Effectiveness of Effective Field Theories?Alexander Franklin - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (4):1235-1259.
Inter-Theory Relations in Quantum Gravity: Correspondence, Reduction and Emergence.Karen Crowther - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 63:74-85.
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 64:68-78.
Biology Meets Physics: Reductionism and Multi-Scale Modeling of Morphogenesis.Sara Green & Robert Batterman - 2017 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 7161:20-34.

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References found in this work

Special Sciences.Jerry A. Fodor - 1974 - Synthese 28 (2):97-115.
Minimal Model Explanations.Robert W. Batterman & Collin C. Rice - 2014 - Philosophy of Science 81 (3):349-376.
Mind, Language and Reality.[author unknown] - 1975 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 39 (2):361-362.
The Multiple Realizability Argument Against Reductionism.Elliott Sober - 1999 - Philosophy of Science 66 (4):542-564.

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