Philosophy of Science 85 (3):523-529 (2018)

Alan Love
University of Minnesota
Reductive explanations are psychologically seductive; when given two explanations, people prefer the one that refers to lower-level components or processes to account for the phenomena under consideration even when information about these lower levels is irrelevant (Hopkins, Weisberg, and Taylor 2016). Maybe individuals assume that a reductive explanation is what a scientific explanation should look like (e.g., neuroscience should explain psychology) or presume that information about lower-level components or processes is more explanatory (e.g., molecular detail explains better than anatomical detail). Philosophers have been analyzing reduction for more than half a century (Hüttemann and Love 2016), but neither of these possibilities is a consensus view (even if psychologically applicable). Instead, there is widespread agreement that the landscape of reductionism is complicated, especially in biology (Brigandt and Love 2017). Increasing scrutiny of actual practices within biology and other sciences has often provoked the questions (paraphrasing Alasdair MacIntyre): Whose explanation? Which reductionism? Marie Kaiser’s book—Reductive Explanation in the Biological Sciences—is a decisive intervention into these discussions, offering a wealth of helpful distinctions and new analyses with a healthy focus on scientific practices of explanation.
Keywords Reductive explanation
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1086/697731
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 56,060
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Limits of Reductionism in the Life Sciences.Marie I. Kaiser - 2011 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 33 (4):453-476.
COMPARING PART-WHOLE REDUCTIVE EXPLANATIONS IN BIOLOGY AND PHYSICS.Alan C. Love & Andreas Hüttemann - 2011 - In Dennis Dieks, Wenceslao Gonzalo, Thomas Uebel, Stephan Hartmann & Marcel Weber (eds.), Explanation, Prediction, and Confirmation. Springer. pp. 183--202.
Individuating Part-Whole Relations in the Biological World.Marie I. Kaiser - 2018 - In O. Bueno, R.-L. Chen & M. B. Fagan (eds.), Individuation Across Experimental and Theoretical Sciences. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Causality in the Biological Sciences.Marie I. Kaiser - 2014 - The Reasoner 8 (3):28-29.
Explanation.Marie I. Kaiser - forthcoming - In L. N. de la Rosa & G. B. Müller (eds.), Evolutionary Developmental Biology - A Reference Guide. Cham: Springer.
Reductive Explanation and the "Explanatory Gap".Peter Carruthers - 2004 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 34 (2):153-174.
Potentiality in Biology.Andreas Hüttemann & Marie I. Kaiser - 2018 - In K. Engelhardt & M. Quante (eds.), Handbook of Potentiality. Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 401-428.
L'explication en biologie.Marie I. Kaiser - 2014 - In F. Merlin & T. Hoquet (eds.), Précis de Philosophie de la biologie [Handbook Philosophy of Biology]. Paris, France: Vuibert Press. pp. 143-155.
Identity-Based Reduction and Reductive Explanation.Raphael van Riel - 2010 - Philosophia Naturalis 47 (1-2):183-219.


Added to PP index

Total views
40 ( #251,216 of 2,403,719 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #360,211 of 2,403,719 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes