Synthese 196 (11):4711-4733 (2019)

Contemporary philosophy of science has seen a growing trend towards a focus on scientific practice over the epistemic outputs that such practices produce. This practice-oriented approach has yielded a clearer understanding of how reductive research strategies play a central role in contemporary scientific inquiry. In parallel, a growing body of work has sought to explore the role of non-reductive, or systems-level, research strategies. As a result, the relationship between reductive and non-reductive scientific practices is becoming of increased importance. In this paper, I provide a framework within which research strategies can be compared. I argue that no strategy is reductive or non-reductive simpliciter, rather strategies are more, or are less, reductive than one another according to a frame of reference. That frame of reference is provided by a continuum of possible ways in which the target system might be conceptualised. I illustrate the utility of the framework by deploying it to analyse a recent debate in cancer research. When set within the framework, a prominent reductive strategy—the somatic mutation theory—and a prominent non-reductive strategy—the tissue organisational field theory—do not stand opposed to one another. Rather, they serve as boundary markers to chart the territory of approaches to carcinogenesis within which most strategies in the field fall.
Keywords Reduction  Decomposition  Dynamics  Research Strategies  Somatic Mutation Theory  Tissue Organisational Field Theory  Epistemic Practices
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-018-1683-1
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Special Sciences.Jerry A. Fodor - 1974 - Synthese 28 (2):97-115.

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