Reinforcing the Three ‘R’s: Reduction, Reception, and Replacement

In Maurice Kenneth Davy Schouten & Huibert Looren de Jong (eds.), The matter of the mind: philosophical essays on psychology, neuroscience, and reduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell (2007)
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Abstract

Philosophers of science have offered different accounts of what it means for one scientific theory to reduce to another. I propose a more or less friendly amendment to Kenneth Schaffner’s “General Reduction-Replacement” model of scientific unification. Schaffner interprets scientific unification broadly in terms of a continuum from theory reduction to theory replacement. As such, his account leaves no place on its continuum for type irreducible and irreplaceable theories. The same is true for other accounts that incorporate Schaffner's continuum, for example, those developed by Paul Churchland, Clifford Hooker, and John Bickle. Yet I believe a more general account of scientific unification should include type irreducible and irreplaceable theories in an account of their partial reduction, specifically, when there is a reduction of their tokens. Thus I propose a “Reduction-Reception-Replacement” model wherein type irreducible and irreplaceable theories are accepted or received for the purpose of unifying domains of particulars. I also suggest a link between this kind of token reduction and mechanistic explanation.

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Ronald Endicott
North Carolina State University

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