_Conservative Reductionism_ sets out a new theory of the relationship between physics and the special sciences within the framework of functionalism. It argues that it is wrong-headed to conceive an opposition between functional and physical properties and to build an anti-reductionist argument on multiple realization. By contrast, all properties that there are in the world, including the physical ones, are functional properties in the sense of being causal properties, and all true descriptions that the special sciences propose can in principle (...) be reduced to physical descriptions by means of functional reduction, despite multiple realization. The book develops arguments for from the metaphysics of properties and the philosophy of physics. These arguments lead to a conservative ontological reductionism. It then develops functional reduction into a fully-fledged, conservative theory reduction by means of introducing functional sub-types that are coextensive with physical types, illustrating that conservative reductionism by means of case studies from biology. (shrink)
Reductionism encompasses a set of ontological, epistemological, and methodological claims about the relation of different scientific domains. The basic question of reduction is whether the properties, concepts, explanations, or methods from one scientific domain (typically at higher levels of organization) can be deduced from or explained by the properties, concepts, explanations, or methods from another domain of science (typically one about lower levels of organization). Reduction is germane to a variety of issues in philosophy of science, including the structure (...) of scientific theories, the relations between different scientific disciplines, the nature of explanation, the diversity of methodology, and the very idea of theoretical progress, as well as to numerous topics in metaphysics and philosophy of mind, such as emergence, mereology, and supervenience. (shrink)
Methodological reductionists practice ‘wannabe reductionism’. They claim that one should pursue reductionism, but never propose how. I integrate two strains in prior work to do so. Three kinds of activities are pursued as “reductionist”. “Successional reduction” and inter-level mechanistic explanation are legitimate and powerful strategies. Eliminativism is generally ill-conceived. Specific problem-solving heuristics for constructing inter-level mechanistic explanations show why and when they can provide powerful and fruitful tools and insights, but sometimes lead to erroneous results. I show how (...) traditional metaphysical approaches fail to engage how science is done. The methods used do so, and support a pragmatic and non-eliminativist realism. (shrink)
After the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, scientists working in molecular biology embraced reductionism—the theory that all complex systems can be understood in terms of their components. Reductionism, however, has been widely resisted by both nonmolecular biologists and scientists working outside the field of biology. Many of these antireductionists, nevertheless, embrace the notion of physicalism—the idea that all biological processes are physical in nature. How, Alexander Rosenberg asks, can these self-proclaimed physicalists also be antireductionists? With (...) clarity and wit, Darwinian Reductionism navigates this difficult and seemingly intractable dualism with convincing analysis and timely evidence. In the spirit of the few distinguished biologists who accept reductionism—E. O. Wilson, Francis Crick, Jacques Monod, James Watson, and Richard Dawkins—Rosenberg provides a philosophically sophisticated defense of reductionism and applies it to molecular developmental biology and the theory of natural selection, ultimately proving that the physicalist must also be a reductionist. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that anti-reductionist moral realism still has trouble explaining supervenience. My main target here will be Russ Shafer-Landau's attempt to explain the supervenience of the moral on the natural in terms of the constitution of moral property instantiations by natural property instantiations. First, though, I discuss a recent challenge to the very idea of using supervenience as a dialectical weapon posed by Nicholas Sturgeon. With a suitably formulated supervenience thesis in hand, I try to show how (...) Shafer-Landau's proffered strategy to explain supervenience not only fails to explain supervenience, but that it also has a number of implausible consequences. The more general lesson is that strategies which may work well for explaining supervenience in the philosophy of mind and other areas cannot be assumed to carry over successfully to the metaethical context. We should therefore treat so-called `companions in guilt' arguments in this area of philosophy with considerable skepticism. Key Words: expressivism moral realism non-naturalism reductionism supervenience trope. (shrink)
Ethical reductionism is the best version of naturalistic moral realism. Reductionists regard moral properties as identical to properties appearing in successful scientific theories. Nonreductionists, including many of the Cornell Realists, argue that moral properties instead supervene on scientific properties without identity. I respond to two arguments for nonreductionism. First, nonreductionists argue that the multiple realizability of moral properties defeats reductionism. Multiple realizability can be addressed in ethics by identifying moral properties uniquely or disjunctively with properties of the special (...) sciences. Second, nonreductionists argue that irreducible moral properties explain empirical phenomena, just as irreducible special-science properties do. But since irreducible moral properties don't successfully explain additional regularities, they run the risk of being pseudoscientific properties. Reductionism has all the benefits of nonreductionism, while also being more secure against anti-realist objections because of its ontological simplicity. (shrink)
Reductionist forms of moral realism, such as naturalist realism, are often thought immune to epistemological objections that have been raised against nonnaturalist realism in the form of reliability worries or evolutionary debunking arguments. This article establishes that reductionist realist views can only explain the reliability of our moral beliefs at the cost of incurring repugnant first-order conclusions.
For nearly thirty years, there has been a consensus (at least in English-speaking countries) that reductionism is a mistake and that there are autonomous special sciences. This consensus has been based on an argument from multiple realizability. But Jaegwon Kim has argued persuasively that the multiple realizability argument is flawed.1 I will sketch the recent history of the debate, arguing that much --but not all--of the anti-reductionist consensus survives Kim's critique. This paper was originally titled "Anti-Reductionism Strikes Back", (...) but in the course of writing the paper, I came to think that the concepts used in the debate would not serve either position very well. (shrink)
This paper analyses the anti-reductionist argument from renormalisation group explanations of universality, and shows how it can be rebutted if one assumes that the explanation in question is captured by the counterfactual dependence account of explanation.
Paulina Sliwa (2015) argues that knowing why p is necessary and sufficient for understanding why p. She tries to rebut recent attacks against the necessity and sufficiency claims, and explains the gradability of understanding why in terms of knowledge. I argue that her attempts do not succeed, but I indicate more promising ways to defend reductionism about understanding why throughout the discussion.
In recent years, a ''change in attitude'' in particle physics has led to our understanding current quantum field theories as effective field theories (EFTs). The present paper is concerned with the significance of this EFT approach, especially from the viewpoint of the debate on reductionism in science. In particular, I shall show how EFTs provide a new and interesting case study in current philosophical discussion on reduction, emergence, and inter-level relationships in general.
Reductionists are those who take one theory or phenomenon to be reducible to some other theory or phenomenon. For example, a reductionist regarding mathematics might take any given mathematical theory to be reducible to logic or set theory. Or, a reductionist about biological entities like cells might take such entities to be reducible to collections of physico-chemical entities like atoms and molecules. The type of reductionism that is currently of most interest in metaphysics and philosophy of mind involves the (...) claim that all sciences are reducible to physics. This is usually taken to entail that all phenomena (including mental phenomena like consciousness) are identical to physical phenomena. The bulk of this article will discuss this latter understanding of reductionism. (shrink)
Syntactic Reductionism, as understood here, is the view that the ‘logical forms’ of sentences in which reference to abstract objects appears to be made are misleading so that, on analysis, we can see that no expressions which even purport to refer to abstract objects are present in such sentences. After exploring the motivation for such a view, and arguing that no previous argument against it succeeds, sentences involving generalized quantifiers, such as ‘most’, are examined. It is then argued, on (...) this basis, that Syntactic Reductionism is untenable. (shrink)
A critical review of Mark Siderits's arguments in support of a compatibilist Buddhist theory of free will based on early Abhidharma reductionism and the two-truths distinction between conventional and ultimate truths or reality, which theory he terms 'paleo-compatibilism'. The Buddhist two-truths doctrine is basically analogous to Sellers' distinction between the manifest and scientific images, in which case the argument is that determinism is a claim about ultimate reality, whereas personhood and agency are about conventional reality, both discourse domains are (...) semantically insulated, and thus there cannot be any issue of the incompatibility. (shrink)
In recent years, a change in attitude in particle physics has led to our understanding current quantum field theories as effective field theories. The present paper is concerned with the significance of this EFT approach, especially from the viewpoint of the debate on reductionism in science. In particular, it is a purpose of this paper to clarify how EFTs may provide an interesting case-study in current philosophical discussion on reduction, emergence and inter-level relationships in general.
The case of very young children is a test case for the plausibility of reductionism about testimonial warrant. Reductionism requires reductive reasons, reductively justified and actively deployed for testimonial justification. Though nascent language-users enjoy warranted testimony based beliefs, they do not meet these three reductionist demands. This paper clearly formulates reductionism and the infant/child objection. Two rejoinders are discussed: an influential conceptual argument from Jennifer Lackey’s paper “Testimony and the Infant/Child Objection” and the growing empirical evidence from (...) developmental psychology on selective trust in children. Neither Lackey’s argument nor the empirical evidence vindicate reductionism. (shrink)
With the advent of the Human Genome Project there have been many claims for the genetic origins of complex human behavior including insanity, criminality, and intelligence. But what does it really mean to call something 'genetic'? This is the fundamental question that Sahotra Sarkar's book addresses. The author analyses the nature of reductionism in classical and molecular genetics. He shows that there are two radically different kinds of reductionist explanation: genetic reduction and physical reduction . This important book clarifies (...) the meaning of the term 'genetic', shows how molecular studies have affected genetics, and provides the philosophical background necessary to understand the debates over the Human Genome Project. It will be of particular interest to professionals and students in the philosophy of science, the history of science, and the social studies of science, medicine, and technology. (shrink)
The special and unique attitudes that we take towards events in our futures/pasts—e.g., attitudes like the dread of an impeding pain—create a challenge for “Reductionist” accounts that reduce persons to aggregates of interconnected person stages: if the person stage currently dreading tomorrow’s pain is numerically distinct from the person stage that will actually suffer the pain, what reason could the current person stage have for thinking of that future pain as being his? One reason everyday subjects believe they have a (...) substantially extended temporal existence stems from introspection—they introspectively experience their selves as being temporally extended. In this paper, I examine whether a Reductionist about personal identity can co-opt this explanation. Using Galen Strawson’s recent work on self-experience as a resource, I reach both a negative and a positive conclusion about the prospects of such a position. First, the relevant kind of self-experience—i.e., the introspective experience of one’s self as being a substantially temporally extended entity—will not automatically arise within a person stage simply in virtue of that stage being psychologically connected to/continuous with other person stages. Second, the relevant kind of self-experience will arise, however, in virtue of person stages weaving together their respective experiences, actions, etc. via a narrative. This positive conclusion points towards a new Reductionist position that focuses upon a narrative, and not mere psychological continuity, in attempting to justify the special attitudes we take towards events in our futures/pasts. (shrink)
The contrast between the strategies of research employed in reductionism and holism masks a radical contradiction between two different scientific philosophies. We concentrate in particular on an analysis of the key philosophical issues which give structure to holistic thought. A first (non-exhaustive) analysis of the philosophical tradition will dwell upon: a) the theory of emergence: each level of organisation is characterised by properties whose laws cannot be deduced from the laws of the inferior levels of organisation (Engels, Morgan); b) (...) clarification of the relations between the “whole” and the “parts” (Woodger, Needham); c) the ontological or epistemological nature of the emergent properties; are they a phenomenological reality or solely an artefact of the state of our knowledge? (Pepper, Henle, Hempel and Oppenheim); d) the proposition of the holistic theoretical and methodological model ( Novikoff, Feibleman). I then go on to examine the differences that exist between the reductionist and the holistic approaches at various levels of analysis: that is to say, the differences which affect their ontologies, methodologies and epistemologies respectively. I attempt to understand the spirit of a holistic approach to ecology by analyzing the major work of E.P. Odum Fundamentals of ecology (1953, 1959, 1971). I set forward what might be meant by the “holistic approach”, which is implicated in all the different levels of organisation at which the problem of “complexity” is debated. Ecology presents itself as an “holistic science” and Odum’s book offers a vision of the world which dates far back in the history of philosophy. By looking at the three different editions of this fundamental text on ecology, we may become aware of the evolution of Odum’s thought. In fact, only in the third and last edition is there a conscious appropriation of the holistic approach (by using the theoretical models of Feibleman who, for his part, refers to Novikoff). However, even when formally referring to the theory of emergence (that is to say the ontological nucleus of every holistic approach), Odum’s systemic analysis presents the same logical errors, which push him back into the reductionist domain. Above all, in his examination of the main concepts of “population”, “community” and “ecosystem”, there is a misunderstanding of the profound difference between “collective properties” and “emergent properties”. Moreover, the cybernetic models of Odum’s systemic analysis (introduced into ecology by Margalef), allowed him to vastly oversimplify his methodological task: in fact, neither how many levels nor which levels of organization are fundamental for the study of each individual level is clearly marked. Finally, Odum analyses the ecosystem as composed of energetic flux and cycles of matter, referring to the trophic-dynamic vision of Lindeman. That is to say, in my opinion, he juxtaposes a reductionistic methodology and epistemology to an holistic ontology. (shrink)
Nathan Salmon, in his paper Trans-World Identification and Stipulation (1996) purports to give a proof for the claim that facts concerning trans-world identity cannot be conceptually reduced to general facts. He calls this claim ‘Extreme Haecceitism.’ I argue that his proof is fallacious. However, I also contend that the analysis and ultimate rejection of his proof clarifies the fundamental issues that are at stake in the debate between the reductionist and haecceitist solutions to the problem of trans-world identity. These issues (...) hinge on the ability of modal logic and possible worlds semantics to draw a hard and fast distinction between the logic and the metaphysics of modal logic. I shall claim that the considerations in this paper call into question the viability of such a distinction. (shrink)
Nonreductive physicalists have a causal exclusion problem. Given certain theses all physicalists accept, including psychophysical supervenience and the causal closure of the physical realm, it is difficult to see how irreducible mental phenomena could make a causal difference to the world. The upshot, according to those who push the problem, is that we must embrace reductive physicalism. Only then is mental causation saved. -/- Grant the argument, at least provisionally. Here our focus is the conditional question: What form should one's (...)reductionism take if it is motivated in part by the exclusion problem? Must one be a type identity theorist, or are alternative reductive views available, as Jaegwon Kim has suggested more than once? (shrink)
Reductionism’s approach brings together many of the most interesting questions today in philosophy and in science . It also presents a brief history of how reductionism has developed in Western philosophy and religion, with reference to Indian philosophy on certain issues.
(added for 2013 upload): This chapter compares classical dualist and reductionist views of phenomenal consciousness with an alternative, reflexive way of viewing the relations amongst consciousness, brain and the external physical world. It argues that dualism splits the universe in two fundamental ways: in viewing phenomenal consciousness as having neither location nor extension it splits consciousness from the material world, and subject from object. Materialist reductionism views consciousness as a brain state or function (located and extended in the brain) (...) which eliminates the consciousness/material world split, but retains the split of subject from object. The chapter argues that neither dualism nor reductionism accurately describes the phenomenal world; consequently they each provide a misleading understanding of phenomenal consciousness. Reflexive monism follows the contours of everyday experience, thereby allowing a more unified understanding of how phenomenal consciousness relates to the brain and external physical world that is consistent both with the findings of science and with common sense. The chapter goes on to consider how phenomenal objects relate to real objects, perceptual projection, how phenomenal space relates to physical space, whether the brain is in the world or the world in the brain, and why this matters for science. (shrink)
Reductionism is a metaphysical thesis, a claim about explanations, and a research program. The metaphysical thesis reductionists advance (and antireductionists accept) is that all facts, including all biological facts, are fixed by the physical and chemical facts; there are no non-physical events, states, or processes, and so biological events, states and processes are “nothing but” physical ones. The research program can be framed as a methodological prescription which follows from the claim about explanations. Antireductionism does not dispute reductionism’s (...) metaphysical claim, but rejects the explanatory claim and so the methodological moral. To a first approximation what reductionists and antireductionists disagree about is whether explanations in functional biology can be or need to be explained by or completed or perhaps replaced by explanations in terms of molecular biology.i And this disagreement over the adequacy of explanations in functional biology drives a significant methodological disagreement with consequence for the research program of biology. (shrink)
In this paper, I clarify and defend a provocative hypothesis offered by Bernard Williams, namely, that modern people are much more likely to speak in terms of master-concepts like “good” or “right,” and correspondingly less likely to think and speak in the pluralistic terms favored by certain Ancient societies. By conducting a close reading of the Platonic dialogues Charmides and Laches, I show that the figure of Socrates plays a key historical role in this conceptual shift. Once we understand that (...) our narrow, reductionist focus on “thin” ethical concepts is a contingent historical development, we are, I claim, in a much better position to evaluate it. (shrink)
showing what makes causal facts both true and accessible enough for us to have the knowledge of them that we ordinarily take ourselves to have. Some current approaches to analyzing causation were once resisted. First, analyses that use the counterfactual conditional were viewed with suspicion because philosophers also sought (and still do seek) similar understanding of counterfactual facts. Since the same can be said for the other nomic concepts--causation, lawhood, explanation, chance, dispositions, and their conceptual kin--philosophy demonstrated a preference for (...) non-nomic definitions of causation, analytic completions of (S) with no nomic terms in the analysans. Recently, however, philosophers have been less demanding regarding what terms may be used. Attention has been given to analyzing causation in terms of chance, the counterfactual conditional, and lawhood. If we reserve the term ‘causal’ for the terms and concepts that have extremely obvious connections.. (shrink)
In previous work, I defend the following disparity between moral and epistemic facts: whereas moral facts are irreducibly normative, epistemic facts – facts such as that some subject is epistemically justified in believing something – are reducible to facts from some other domain (such as facts about probabilities). This moral-epistemic disparity is significant because it undercuts an important kind of argument for robust moral realism. My defense of epistemic reductionism and of the moral-epistemic disparity has been criticized by Richard (...) Rowland (2013) and by Terence Cuneo and Christos Kyriacou (forthcoming). This paper aims to rebut these criticisms and, more generally, to clarify and strengthen the case for epistemic reductionism and the moral-epistemic disparity. (shrink)
This paper argues that the consensus physicalist antireductionism in the philosophy of biology cannot accommodate the research strategy or indeed the recent findings of molecular developmental biology. After describing Wolperts programmatic claims on its behalf, and recent work by Gehring and others to identify the molecular determinants of development, the paper attempts to identify the relationship between evolutionary and developmental biology by reconciling two apparently conflicting accounts of bio-function – Wrights and Nagels (as elaborated by Cummins). Finally, the paper seeks (...) a way of defending the two central theses of physicalist antireductionism in the light of the research program of molecular developmental biology, by sharply reducing their metaphysical force. (shrink)
Reductionism is often understood to include two theses: (1) every singular occurrence that the special sciences can explain also can be explained by physics; (2) every law in a higher-level science can be explained by physics. These claims are widely supposed to have been refuted by the multiple realizability argument, formulated by Putnam (1967, 1975) and Fodor (1968, 1975). The present paper criticizes the argument and identifies a reductionistic thesis that follows from one of the argument's premises.
While Derek Parfit is aware that his reductionism about persons is anticipated in early Buddhism and Abhidharma, he has not explored that tradition for any clues it might yield concerning the consequences of adopting the position. In this essay, the tradition is used to construct a taxonomy of possible views about persons, and then examine the meta-physical commitments that Buddhist reductionists claim are entailed by their view. While these turn out to be significant, it is argued here that this (...) is a price a reductionist should be prepared to pay. (shrink)
Macroeconomists overwhelmingly believe that macroeconomics requires microfoundations, typically understood as a strong eliminativist reductionism. Microfoundations aims to recover intentionality. In the face of technical and data constraints macroeconomists typically employ a representative-agent model, in which a single agent solves the microeconomic optimization problem for the whole economy, and take it to be microfoundationally adequate. The characteristic argument for the representative-agent model holds that the possibility of the sequential elaboration of the model to cover any number of individual agents justifies (...) treating the policy conclusions of the single-agent model as practically relevant. This eschatological justification is examined and rejected. (shrink)
(1) The aim of the paper is to develop a reduction of fallacy theory, i.e. to 'deduce' fallacy theory from a positive theory of argumentation which provides exact criteria for valid and adequate argumentation. Such reductionism has several advantages compared to an unsystematic action, which is quite usual in current fallacy but which at least in part is due to the poor state of positive argumentation theory itself. (2) After defining 'fallacy' (3) some principle ideas and (4) the exact (...) criteria for (argumentatively) valid and adequate arguments of the 'practical theory of argumentation' of the author are expounded. These criteria will be used as the positive basis for the following reduction. (5) In the main part of the paper a systematization, definition and explanation of the main types and many subforms of fallacies of argumentative validity and (6) adequacy is developed, following the list of positive conditions of validity and adequacy. In addition to many new types of fallacies, this systematization contains the most important of the traditionally known and named fallacies; these are explained and the criteria for some of them are corrected or put more precisely. (shrink)
In the contemporary life sciences more and more researchers emphasize the “limits of reductionism” (e.g. Ahn et al. 2006a, 709; Mazzocchi 2008, 10) or they call for a move “beyond reductionism” (Gallagher/Appenzeller 1999, 79). However, it is far from clear what exactly they argue for and what the envisioned limits of reductionism are. In this paper I claim that the current discussions about reductionism in the life sciences, which focus on methodological and explanatory issues, leave the (...) concepts of a reductive method and a reductive explanation too unspecified. In order to fill this gap and to clarify what the limits of reductionism are I identify three reductive methods that are crucial in the current practice of the life sciences: decomposition, focusing on internal factors, and studying parts in isolation. Furthermore, I argue that reductive explanations in the life sciences exhibit three characteristics: first, they refer only to factors at a lower level than the phenomenon at issue, second, they focus on internal factors and thus ignore or simplify the environment of a system, and, third, they cite only the parts of a system in isolation. (shrink)
P. Kitcher's unification theory of explanation appears to endorse a reductionistic view of scientific explanation that is inconsistant with scientific practice. In this paper, I argue that this appearance is illusory. The existence of multiply realizable generalizations enable the unification theory to also count many high-level accounts as explanatory.
. Nonreductive physicalism, as opposed to reductionism, enjoys wide popularity by virtue of being regarded as comporting with the traditional image of human beings as free and ontologically unique without the difficulties of mind-body dualism. A consideration of reasons, both good and bad, for which reductionism is rejected suggests instead that the move to nonreductive physicalism does nothing to mitigate the implications of a physicalist account of human nature.
Like most domains of science, the study of the mind has been tackled at many scales of analysis, from the behavior of large groups of people, to the diffusion of ions across cellular membranes. At each of these scales, researchers often believe that the critical phenomena of interest, and the most powerful explanatory constructs and mechanisms, reside at their scale of analysis, with finer scales argued to be incapable of predicting the interesting phenomena, while coarser scales are purported to miss (...) critical mechanistic subtleties. Here we argue by analogy that, for better or worse, researchers at all scales are correct: phenomena at each scale of analysis are intractable from other scales; thus, while reductionism is a useful scientific goal, it will not obviate the need for macroscopic research, constructs, and formalisms. (shrink)
In the context of the free will debate, both compatibilists and event-causal libertarians consider that the agent’s mental states and events are what directly causes her decision to act. However, according to the ‘disappearing agent’ objection, if the agent is nothing over and above her physical and mental components, which ultimately bring about her decision, and that decision remains undetermined up to the moment when it is made, then it is a chancy and uncontrolled event. According to agent-causalism, this sort (...) of problem can be overcome if one realizes that the agent herself, as an irreducible substance, is the true originator of her actions. I’ll present arguments that favor this view. Event-causalists have countered that if the agent identifies with some of the inner states that play the self-determining causal role in bringing about the action, then it is as though the action was directly caused by herself. I’ll object that this is not a distinctive aspect of free agency. Agent-causalism has been criticized from most naturalistically inclined fronts, and it must address risks of implausibility, contradiction and unintelligibility. Even though I’ll acknowledge these challenges, I’ll still argue that libertarian free will cannot be defended by any reductionist alternative, and that agent-causalism does not conflict with contemporary science but only with some of its unproven assumptions. (shrink)