COMPARING PART-WHOLE REDUCTIVE EXPLANATIONS IN BIOLOGY AND PHYSICS

In Dennis Dieks, Wenceslao Gonzalo, Thomas Uebel, Stephan Hartmann & Marcel Weber (eds.), Explanation, Prediction, and Confirmation. Springer. pp. 183--202 (2011)
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Abstract

Many biologists and philosophers have worried that importing models of reasoning from the physical sciences obscures our understanding of reasoning in the life sciences. In this paper we discuss one example that partially validates this concern: part-whole reductive explanations. Biology and physics tend to incorporate different models of temporality in part-whole reductive explanations. This results from differential emphases on compositional and causal facets of reductive explanations, which have not been distinguished reliably in prior philosophical analyses. Keeping these two facets distinct facilitates the identifi cation of two further aspects of reductive explanation: intrinsicality and fundamentality. Our account provides resources for discriminating between different types of reductive explanation and suggests a new approach to comprehending similarities and differences in the explanatory reasoning found in biology and physics.

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Andreas Hüttemann
University of Cologne

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