Reduction and anti-reduction: Rights and wrongs

Metaphilosophy 25 (5):614-647 (2004)

Abstract

Scholars are divided as to whether reduction should be a central strategy for understanding the world. While reductive analysis is the standard mode of explanation in many areas of science and everyday life, many consider reductionism a sign of “intellectual naivete and backwardness.” In this paper I make three points about the proper status of anti-reductionism: First, reduction, is, in fact, a centrally important epistemic strategy. Second, reduction to physics is always possible for all causal properties. Third, there are, nevertheless, reasons we want science to discover properties and explanations other than reductive physical ones.

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