About this topic
Summary

The subject of interlevel relations concerns the connection between items described by different sciences, from high-level human sciences down to fundamental-level physics. More specifically, philosophers distinguish inter-level relations from purely same-level or intra-level causal relations. For example, the question is not “how does activity in a visual input system cause events in a downstream face-recognition device within the mind?” That is an intra-level question about mental-to-mental causation, and one can answer it by staying within the confines of a psychological theory. Rather, the question is something like “how do neuro-physical parts of the brain realize a face-recognition device?” That is an inter-level question about a neurological-to-mental relation, and one can answer it only by joining items in psychology with those of neuroscience. Philosophers also analyze these inter-level relations in terms of concepts like identity and reduction, or different forms of emergence and supervenience, or part-whole mechanistic relations, or different kinds of realization relations. 

Key works

Regarding the notion of levels in science, Craver 2007 provides a good discussion of the difference between levels understood in terms of parts for mechanisms versus such things as part-whole composition, mere aggregation, and spatial containment. For discussion of the difference between theories about inter-level causal transitions versus inter-level property instantiation or realization relations, see also Cummins 1983, Craver & Bechtel 2007, and the recent anthology Brooks et al 2021. For reduction, important ideas includes reduction as a derivation by bridge principles (Nagel 1961), approximate reduction (Schaffner 1967), an expanded continuum of strong to weak reduction that advertises no bridge laws (Churchland 1979; Hooker 1981; Bickle 1997; Endicott 1998), compositional or mechanistic reduction (Wimsatt 1976; Rosenberg 2006; Bechtel 2007), and functional reduction (Kim 1998; Marras 2002). For emergence, there are views that involve epistemic, metaphysical, synchronic, and diachronic ideas (McLaughlin 1992; Wimsatt 1997; Humphreys 2008; Wilson 2015), as well as issues about actual cases in the sciences (Batterman 2001; Davies 2006). For supervenience, there are weak, strong, global, and mereological varieties (Kim 1993; Horgan 1993; McLaughlin 1995; Paull & Sider 1992), as well as debates over their significance for issues of explanation and dependence (Grimes 1988; Bennett 2004) and their adequacy to express a doctrine of physicalism (Wilson 2005). For realization, the are accounts in terms of functional roles and occupation (Papineau 1993; Melnyk 1994; Kim 1998), parts and wholes of mechanisms (Cummins 1983; Gillett 2002; Craver 2007), determinables and determinates (MacDonald & MacDonald 1986; Yablo 1992; Wilson 2009), and subsets of causal powers (Wilson 1999, 2011; Shoemaker 2001, 2007). There is also an interesting discussion of inter-level explanation in terms of why questions and answers by grounds in Skow 2016.

Introductions Some works have a fairly broad scope, encompassing several of the views just mentioned. See Beckermann et al 1992; van Gulick 2001; and Kim 2003.
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  1. Scientific Imperialism, Pluralism, and Folk Morality.Adrian Walsh & Sandy C. Boucher - 2018 - In U. Maki and M. F. Pinto A. Walsh (ed.), Scientific Imperialism. London, UK: pp. 13-30.
    Current debates over so-called ‘scientific imperialism’, on one plausible reading, explore significant general issues about the proper boundaries between distinct disciplines. They raise questions about whether some forms of territorial expansion by scientific disciplines into other domains of inquiry are undesirable. Clearly there is a strong normative undercurrent here, as the use of the pejorative term ‘imperialism’ would indicate. However, we face a genuine puzzle here: why should we regard some forms of expansion as illegitimate? Why should any particular boundaries (...)
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  2. From Life-Like to Mind-Like Explanation: Natural Agency and the Cognitive Sciences.Alex Djedovic - 2020 - Dissertation, University of Toronto, St. George Campus
    This dissertation argues that cognition is a kind of natural agency. Natural agency is the capacity that certain systems have to act in accordance with their own norms. Natural agents are systems that bias their repertoires in response to affordances in the pursuit of their goals. Cognition is a special mode of this general phenomenon. Cognitive systems are agents that have the additional capacity to actively take their worlds to be certain ways, regardless of whether the world is really that (...)
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  3. Biological Teleology, Reductionism, and Verbal Disputes.Sandy C. Boucher - 2021 - Foundations of Science 26 (4):859-880.
    The extensive philosophical discussions and analyses in recent decades of function-talk in biology have done much to clarify what biologists mean when they ascribe functions to traits, but the basic metaphysical question—is there genuine teleology and design in the natural world, or only the appearance of this?—has persisted, as recent work both defending, and attacking, teleology from a Darwinian perspective, attest. I argue that in the context of standard contemporary evolutionary theory, this is for the most part a verbal, rather (...)
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  4. An Empiricist Conception of the Relation Between Metaphysics and Science.Sandy Boucher - 2018 - Philosophia 47 (5):1355-1378.
    It is widely acknowledged that metaphysical assumptions, commitments and presuppositions play an important role in science. Yet according to the empiricist there is no place for metaphysics as traditionally understood in the scientific enterprise. In this paper I aim to take a first step towards reconciling these seemingly irreconcilable claims. In the first part of the paper I outline a conception of metaphysics and its relation to science that should be congenial to empiricists, motivated by van Fraassen’s work on ‘stances’. (...)
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  5. Is the Nature of Physical Reality Unknowable?Joel J. Kupperman - 1978 - American Philosophical Quarterly 15 (2):99 - 105.
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  6. The Choice of Facts.Henri Poincaré - 1909 - The Monist 19 (2):231-239.
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  7. Normative All the Way Down.Stephen Turner - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 36 (2):419-429.
  8. Structural Levels in the Scientist's World.Harold Chapman Brown - 1916 - Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods 13 (13):337-345.
  9. Comments on Dr. Hochberg's Paper.Richard L. Cartwright - 1956 - Philosophy of Science 23 (3):260-265.
  10. Rejoinder.Martin Carrier & Jürgen Mittelstrass - 1995 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 9 (1):103-104.
  11. A Challenge.C. W. Churchman - 1945 - Philosophy of Science 12 (3):219-220.
    In recent issues of the Journal of Philosophy John Dewey and Arthur Bentley have been making an attack on certain logical positivists and other logicians on the ground, of all things, that they display amazing contempt for clear and consistent definition of the terms they use. That logicians, whose business it is to define consistency, should themselves be inconsistent in the use of their basic terms is not really so surprising. It may merely prove them to be human, the victims (...)
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  12. Class-Membership and the Ontological Problem.James K. Feibleman - 1950 - Philosophy of Science 17 (3):254-259.
    Professor Quine in recent articles has raised an old question, an ontological one, concerning the status of universals. It is interesting to note that the same positions recur in symbolic logic that have appeared so often in the past in less exact language. There can be little doubt that the question he raises is crucial; and if the issue is not yet settled, there is at least some hope that it may be clarified. Propositions are required to make propositions clear.
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  13. Are Micro-Entities Picturable?T. R. Girill - 1976 - Philosophy of Science 43 (4):570-574.
  14. The Problem of a Fundamental Science.Ernst Harms - 1939 - Philosophical Review 48 (1):46-56.
  15. Comments to Heelans Thesis.Werner Heisenberg & Patrick A. Heelan - 1975 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 6 (1):137-138.
  16. On Reduction Properties.Hirotaka Kikyo & Akito Tsuboi - 1994 - Journal of Symbolic Logic 59 (3):900-911.
  17. Causal Composition and Structured Wholes: Reply to Robert Causey.Theo A. F. Kuipers - 2005 - Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 84 (1):463-465.
  18. Kinds of Micro-Explanation: Reply to Erik Weber and Helena de Preester.Theo A. F. Kuipers - 2005 - Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 84 (1):187-190.
  19. Constitutions of Matter.J. M. - 1998 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 29 (2):277-279.
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  20. The Basic Question: Monism or Dualism?Cecil H. Miller - 1947 - Philosophy of Science 14 (1):1-12.
    This paper is concerned with a question in metaphysics. The question is: Is the world ultimately one, or is it many? It is neither a very profound nor a very complicated question. It is, on the contrary, very simple. But despite its simplicity, it expresses the most basic of all metaphysical problems.When two metaphysical problems, A and B, are so related that the statement of B assumes an answer to A, then we may fairly infer that A is more basic (...)
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  21. Hanson on the Unpicturability of Micro-Entities.Anthony M. Paul - 1971 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 22 (1):50-53.
  22. Concerning the Integration of Sciences: Kinds and Stages. [REVIEW]A. Polikarov - 1995 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 26 (2):297 - 312.
    The detailed analysis allows to discern seven kinds of integration, namely: I₁ consisting in the synthesis of scientific disciplines from their elements, including disciplinary unification I₁; I₂ inclusion of a science in (reduction to) another, more general; I₃ - links between different sciences, especially establishing of common elements; I₄ - interdisciplines bridging various sciences; I₅ - combination of two (or more) disciplines into a new (complex) science; I₆ - a general approach to several domains or multidisciplinary unification; I₇ - transdisciplinary (...)
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  23. Outline of an Emergent Theory of Value.K. R. Srinivasiengar - 1935 - International Journal of Ethics 45 (4):413-421.
  24. A Reply to Jones.Daniel Steel - 1998 - Philosophy of Science 65 (4):682-687.
  25. On the D-Thesis.J. W. Swanson - 1967 - Philosophy of Science 34 (1):59-68.
    Reanimated for the contemporary literature in the writings of Quine, [16]) and Kuhn [7], the conventionalism of Duhem [2] and Poincaré [12] has emerged in the last few years as one of the genuinely interesting topics in the philosophy of science. The theory in question—let us follow Grünbaum [3] in calling it the D-thesis, after its founder, Pierre Duhem—claims three things: a single scientific hypothesis H is never disconfirmable in isolation from its fellow; every single hypothesis H of science presupposes, (...)
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  26. Apunte Sobre la Indistinguibilidad.Enric Trillas - 1993 - Theoria 8 (1):23-49.
    A través de una serie de ejemplos matemáticos elementales se Ilega a proponer una definición bastante general de Indistinguibilidad, por medio de operadores con valores en semigrupos conmutativos ordenados. Tal definición se aplica a casos provenientes de diversos campos, muchos de los cuales exhiban la propiedad da rotura de las cadenas de objetos relacionados a causa de un cierto parecido.
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  1. Metafisica dell'emergenza.Erica Onnis - 2021 - Turin: Rosenberg & Sellier.
    Negli ultimi anni, il richiamo al concetto di emergenza si è fatto sempre più diffuso in molte aree della filosofia e della scienza. Il termine viene usato per riferirsi alla circostanza in cui un sistema (fisico, chimico, biologico, ma anche sociale) manifesta delle proprietà e dei comportamenti che sembrano nuovi rispetto a quelli delle sue parti più semplici. Questo libro si propone di chiarire questo fenomeno, tenendo conto, da un lato, che le discipline coinvolte nel dibattito sono molte, quindi un (...)
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  2. Introducción a la Ontología.Axel Barceló -
    Intuitivamente, la realidad está formada por entidades y hechos existentes y concretos. Sin embargo, nuestro lenguaje y pensamiento versa también sobre hechos meramente posibles, sobre cosas inexistentes y entidades abstractas. ¿Cómo es esto posible? ¿Significa ello que cuando hablamos y pensamos de estas otras cosas no hablamos de nada real? ¿o mas bien la realidad está mas poblada de lo que pensábamos y hay diferentes maneras de formar parte de la realidad además de la de existir de manera positiva y (...)
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  3. Emergence Without Limits: The Case of Phonons.Alexander Franklin & Eleanor Knox - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 64:68-78.
    Recent discussions of emergence in physics have focussed on the use of limiting relations, and often particularly on singular or asymptotic limits. We discuss a putative example of emergence that does not fit into this narrative: the case of phonons. These quasi-particles have some claim to be emergent, not least because the way in which they relate to the underlying crystal is almost precisely analogous to the way in which quantum particles relate to the underlying quantum field theory. But there (...)
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  4. Two Concepts of Reduction: Modal Realism at Risk.William G. Lycan - 1986 - Journal of Philosophy 83 (11):693-694.
  5. Reduction or Subtraction: Jean-Luc Marion, Alain Badiou, and the Recuperation of Truth.Adam S. Miller - 2007 - Philosophy Today 51 (Supplement):23-32.
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  6. L’intentionnalité et Ie problème de la réduction de la psychologie.Alexandre Métraux - 1986 - Études Phénoménologiques 2 (4):75-95.
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  7. Ontological Reduction. [REVIEW]Harold Hodes - 1975 - Philosophical Review 84 (3):439.
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  8. The Structure of Science: Problems in the Logic of Scientific Explanation. [REVIEW]Charles E. Caton - 1964 - Philosophical Review 73 (1):104-106.
  9. La force des dispositifs faibles : la politique de réduction des risques en matière de drogues.Jean-Yves Trépos - 2003 - Cahiers Internationaux de Sociologie 1 (1):93-108.
    La conversion de la France à une politique de « réduction des risques » , est généralement interprétée comme l’indice d’un changement de paradigme en matière de toxicomanie. Il est néanmoins possible de la voir comme une forme de réagencement politique du monde des consommations de drogues, visant à définir de nouveaux seuils, les plus bas possibles, pour l’entrée dans des dispositifs de soin et de service. L’examen des visions du monde sur lesquelles reposent ces équipements politiques, en France comme (...)
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  10. Identity-Based Reduction and Reductive Explanation.Raphael van Riel - 2011 - Philosophia Naturalis 48 (1):185-221.
  11. Transcending the Emergence/Reduction Distinction: The Case of Biology.Rom Harré - 2005 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 56:1-2.
    The groups of problems that fall under the titles ‘reduction’ and ‘emergence’ appear at the boundaries of seemingly independent and well-established scientific disciplines, such as chemistry and biology, biology and psychology, biology and political theory, and so on. They arise in this way.
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  12. The Reduction of MoO3at Low Temperatures. II.W. Thöni, P. L. Gai & P. B. Hirsch - 1977 - Philosophical Magazine 35 (3):781-786.
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  13. The Reduction of MoO3at Low Temperatures.W. Thöni & P. B. Hirsch - 1976 - Philosophical Magazine 33 (4):639-662.
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  14. Crystallographic Shear and Ordered Reduction of UO2.Hj Matzke & C. Ronchi - 1972 - Philosophical Magazine 26 (6):1395-1407.
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  15. The Influence of Fluorides on the Reduction of Permanganate.W. Pugh - 1934 - Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 22 (1):71-80.
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  16. The Influence of Fluorides on the Reduction of Potassium Permanganate.W. Pugh - 1931 - Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 20 (1):93-100.
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  17. Reduction of the Number of States and the Acceleration of LMNtal Parallel Model Checking.Ryo Yasuda, Taketo Yoshida & Kazunori Ueda - 2014 - Transactions of the Japanese Society for Artificial Intelligence 29 (1):182-187.
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  18. Life Sciences Studies in the Philosophy of Biology: Reduction and Related Problems. Ed. By Francisco Jose Ayala and Theodosius Dobzhansky. London: Macmillan, 1972. Pp. Xix + 390. £12.00. [REVIEW]Roger Smith - 1976 - British Journal for the History of Science 9 (3):333-334.
  19. Need-Reduction, Drive-Reduction, and Reinforcement: A Neurophysiological View.Joseph Wolpe - 1950 - Psychological Review 57 (1):19-26.
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  20. Levels: Descriptive, Explanatory, and Ontological.Christian List - 2017
    Scientists and philosophers frequently speak about levels of description, levels of explanation, and ontological levels. This paper presents a framework for studying levels. I give a general definition of a system of levels and discuss several applications, some of which refer to descriptive or explanatory levels while others refer to ontological levels. I illustrate the usefulness of this framework by bringing it to bear on some familiar philosophical questions. Is there a hierarchy of levels, with a fundamental level at the (...)
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  21. Models of Reduction.Otávio Bueno - 2009 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 13 (3):269-282.
    . In this paper, I examine three models of reduction. The first, and the most restrictive, is the model developed by Ernest Nagel as part of the logical empiricist program. The second, articulated by Jerry Fodor, is significantly broader, but it seems unable to make sense of a salient feature of scientific practice. The third, and the most lenient, model is developed within Newton da Costa and Steven French’s partial structures approach. I argue that the third model preserves the benefits (...)
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  22. The Problem of Reductionism From a System Theoretical Viewpoint.Walter von Lucadou & Klaus Kornwachs - 1983 - Zeitschrift Für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 14 (2):338-349.
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  23. Physical Composition.Richard Healey - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 44 (1):48-62.
    Atomistic metaphysics motivated an explanatory strategy which science has pursued with great success since the scientific revolution. By decomposing matter into its atomic and subatomic parts physics gave us powerful explanations and accurate predictions as well as providing a unifying framework for the rest of science. The success of the decompositional strategy has encouraged a widespread conviction that the physical world forms a compositional hierarchy that physics and other sciences are progressively articulating. But this conviction does not stand up to (...)
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  24. Reduction with Autonomy.Louise M. Antony & Joseph Levine - 1997 - Noûs 31 (S11):83-105.
1 — 50 / 1337