Hierarchies and levels of reality

Synthese 176 (3):379-397 (2010)
Authors
Patrick McGivern
University of Wollongong
Alexander Rueger
University of Alberta
Abstract
We examine some assumptions about the nature of 'levels of reality' in the light of examples drawn from physics. Three central assumptions of the standard view of such levels (for instance, Oppenheim and Putnam 1958) are (i) that levels are populated by entities of varying complexity, (ii) that there is a unique hierarchy of levels, ranging from the very small to the very large, and (iii) that the inhabitants of adjacent levels are related by the parthood relation. Using examples from physics, we argue that it is more natural to view the inhabitants of levels as the behaviors of entities, rather than entities themselves. This suggests an account of reduction between levels, according to which one behavior reduces to another if the two are related by an appropriate limit relation. By considering cases where such inter-level reduction fails, we show that the hierarchy of behaviors differs in several respects from the standard hierarchy of entities. In particular, while on the standard view, lower-level entities are 'micro' parts of higher-level entities, on our view, a system's macro-level behavior can be seen as a ('non-spatial') part of its micro-level behavior. We argue that this second hierarchy is not really in conflict with the standard view and that it better suits examples of explanation in science
Keywords Philosophy   Metaphysics   Philosophy of Language   Logic   Epistemology   Philosophy of Science
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-009-9572-2
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References found in this work BETA

Philosophy of Natural Science.Carl G. Hempel - 1966 - Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall.
Unity of Science as a Working Hypothesis.Paul Oppenheim & Hilary Putnam - 1958 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 2:3-36.

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Citations of this work BETA

Prioritizing Platonism.Kelly Trogdon & Sam Cowling - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies.
The Limitations of Hierarchical Organization.Angela Potochnik & Brian McGill - 2012 - Philosophy of Science 79 (1):120-140.
Levels of Organization: A Deflationary Account.Markus I. Eronen - 2015 - Biology and Philosophy 30 (1):39-58.
No Levels, No Problems: Downward Causation in Neuroscience.Markus Eronen - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (5):1042-1052.

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