Reductionism in a historical science

Philosophy of Science 68 (2):135-163 (2001)
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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.



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Alex Rosenberg
Duke University

Citations of this work

The autonomy of functional biology: A reply to Rosenberg.Marc Lange - 2004 - Biology and Philosophy 19 (1):93-109.
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Laws and explanation in history.William H. Dray - 1957 - Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.
1953 and all that. A tale of two sciences.Philip Kitcher - 1984 - Philosophical Review 93 (3):335-373.
Approaches to reduction.Kenneth F. Schaffner - 1967 - Philosophy of Science 34 (2):137-147.

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