Part-whole science

Synthese 178 (3):397-427 (2011)
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Abstract

A scientific explanatory project, part-whole explanation, and a kind of science, part-whole science are premised on identifying, investigating, and using parts and wholes. In the biological sciences, mechanistic, structuralist, and historical explanations are part-whole explanations. Each expresses different norms, explananda, and aims. Each is associated with a distinct partitioning frame for abstracting kinds of parts. These three explanatory projects can be complemented in order to provide an integrative vision of the whole system, as is shown for a detailed case study: the tetrapod limb. My diagnosis of part-whole explanation in the biological sciences as well as in other domains exploring evolved, complex, and integrated systems (e.g., psychology and cognitive science) cross-cuts standard philosophical categories of explanation: causal explanation and explanation as unification. Part-whole explanation is itself one essential aspect of part-whole science.

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Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther
University of California, Santa Cruz

Citations of this work

Mereology.Achille C. Varzi - 2016 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Systems biology and the integration of mechanistic explanation and mathematical explanation.Ingo Brigandt - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):477-492.
The Structure of Scientific Theories.Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther - 2015 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Outlines of a theory of structural explanations.Philippe Huneman - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (3):665-702.
Indigenous and Scientific Kinds.David Ludwig - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (1).

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