Reductionism as a Research Directive

In this paper, I explore the possibilities for arriving at a useful conception of methodological reductionism. Some participants in the debate talk about methodological reductionism as a research program. I argue that the concept of a research program, at least in Lakatos’ sense, cannot account for the diverse nature of methodological reductionism. I then present my own concept of a research directive as a useful alternative and elaborate on this by drawing on Hasok Chang’s theory of ontological principles and epistemic activities. According to my view, the reductionist research directive can be characterized as consisting of the principles fundamental ontological homogeneity, part-whole asymmetry, and orderliness, together with the corresponding activities construction of identities, decomposition, and unification. I suggest that looking at reductionism in this way enables us to understand it as a gradual concept and thus go beyond the simplistic yes-or-no-questions that dominate many current debates on this topic
Keywords Reductionism  Lakatos  Unification  Decomposition  Epistemic activities
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DOI 10.1007/s10838-014-9255-7
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References found in this work BETA

Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge.Imre Lakatos & Alan Musgrave (eds.) - 1970 - Cambridge University Press.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - University of Chicago Press.

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