What is the point of reduction in science?

Erkenntnis:1-24 (2018)
Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
The numerous and diverse roles of theory reduction in science have been insufficiently explored in the philosophy literature on reduction. Part of the reason for this has been a lack of attention paid to reduction2 (successional reduction)---although I here argue that this sense of reduction is closer to reduction1 (explanatory reduction) than is commonly recognised, and I use an account of reduction that is neutral between the two. This paper draws attention to the utility---and incredible versatility---of theory reduction. A non-exhaustive list of various applications of reduction in science is presented, some of which are drawn from a particular case-study, being the current search for a new theory of fundamental physics. This case-study is especially interesting because it employs both senses of reduction at once, and because of the huge weight being put on reduction by the different research groups involved; additionally, it presents some unique uses for reduction---revealing, I argue, the fact that reduction can be of specialised and unexpected service in particular scientific cases. The paper makes two other general findings: that the functions of reduction that are typically assumed to characterise the different forms of the relation may instead be understood as secondary consequences of some other roles; and that most of the roles that reduction plays in science can actually also be fulfilled by a weaker relation than (the typical understanding of) reduction.
PhilPapers/Archive ID
Upload history
First archival date: 2018-11-05
Latest version: 2 (2018-11-05)
View other versions
Added to PP index

Total views
177 ( #25,785 of 53,672 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
29 ( #23,180 of 53,672 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.