Archive for December, 2016

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“Who’s Afraid of ‘Reductionism’?” (12/1/16)

December 1, 2016

Alexander Franklin

Abstract: Consider two crudely caricatured cohorts of philosophers: on the one side there are those who pay very close attention to the way science actually works, but tend to shy away from more metaphysical questions; on the other there are those who deal with science in the abstract and make a lot of metaphysical claims. I aim to chart a course between these two camps. I focus on the thesis of reductionism. One diagnosis for the divergent methodologies discussed above is that the main tool used in the philosophy of physics is the Nagelian theory of reduction. I briefly argue that this tool is hopelessly inadequate to the way science in practice describes the world After outlining reasons why reductionism is nonetheless worth thinking about, I outline a new hope, which I dub ‘the explanatory theory of reduction’. I argue, through a case study, that one can employ this tool to assess claims of reductionism even in the context of real science in all its intricate mess.