An Ontic Account of Explanatory Reduction in Biology

Köln: Kölner Hochschulschriften (2012)
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Convincing disputes about explanatory reductionism in the philosophy of biology require a clear and precise understanding of what a reductive explanation in biology is. The central aim of this book is to provide such an account by revealing the features that determine the reductive character of a biological explanation. Chapters I-IV provide the ground, on which I can then, in Chapter V, develop my own account of explanatory reduction in biology: Chapter I reveals the meta-philosophical assumptions that underlie my analysis of reduction, Chapter II introduces the previous debate about reduction in the philosophy of biology by pointing out the most crucial lessons one should learn from this debate, Chapter III critically discusses the two perspectives on explanatory reduction that have been proposed in the philosophy of biology so far, and Chapter IV clarifies in what ways the issue of reduction is entangled with the issue of explanation. In Chapter V I present my own account of explanatory reduction. My main claim is that reductive explanations in the biological sciences possess three main characteristics: they explain the behavior of a biological system S, first, exclusively in terms of factors that are located on a lower level of organization than S, second, by focusing on factors that are internal to S , and third, by describing the genuine parts of S only as “parts in isolation”. This account is ontic because it traces the reductivity of an explanation back to certain relations that exist in the world.

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Marie I. Kaiser
Bielefeld University


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