Erkenntnis:1-24 (2018)

Karen Crowther
University of Oslo
The numerous and diverse roles of theory reduction in science have been insufficiently explored in the philosophy literature on reduction. Part of the reason for this has been a lack of attention paid to reduction2 (successional reduction)---although I here argue that this sense of reduction is closer to reduction1 (explanatory reduction) than is commonly recognised, and I use an account of reduction that is neutral between the two. This paper draws attention to the utility---and incredible versatility---of theory reduction. A non-exhaustive list of various applications of reduction in science is presented, some of which are drawn from a particular case-study, being the current search for a new theory of fundamental physics. This case-study is especially interesting because it employs both senses of reduction at once, and because of the huge weight being put on reduction by the different research groups involved; additionally, it presents some unique uses for reduction---revealing, I argue, the fact that reduction can be of specialised and unexpected service in particular scientific cases. The paper makes two other general findings: that the functions of reduction that are typically assumed to characterise the different forms of the relation may instead be understood as secondary consequences of some other roles; and that most of the roles that reduction plays in science can actually also be fulfilled by a weaker relation than (the typical understanding of) reduction.
Keywords limiting reduction  theory change  successional reduction  reduction2  generalized correspondence principle  explanatory reduction
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DOI 10.1007/s10670-018-0085-6
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The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - University of Chicago Press.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.David Bohm - 1964 - Philosophical Quarterly 14 (57):377-379.
String Theory and the Scientific Method.Richard Dawid - 2013 - Cambridge University Press.

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