Journal Article

Aspects of Reductive Explanation in Biological Science: Intrinsicality, Fundamentality, and Temporality

Andreas Hüttemann and Alan C. Love

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 62, issue 3, pages 519-549
Published in print September 2011 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online June 2011 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axr006
Aspects of Reductive Explanation in Biological Science: Intrinsicality, Fundamentality, and Temporality

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The inapplicability of variations on theory reduction in the context of genetics and their irrelevance to ongoing research has led to an anti-reductionist consensus in philosophy of biology. One response to this situation is to focus on forms of reductive explanation that better correspond to actual scientific reasoning (e.g. part–whole relations). Working from this perspective, we explore three different aspects (intrinsicality, fundamentality, and temporality) that arise from distinct facets of reductive explanation: composition and causation. Concentrating on these aspects generates new forms of reductive explanation and conditions for their success or failure in biology and other sciences. This analysis is illustrated using the case of protein folding in molecular biology, which demonstrates its applicability and relevance, as well as illuminating the complexity of reductive reasoning in a specific biological context.

1Introduction

2Composition, Causation, and Varieties of Reduction

  2.1Composition versus causation

  2.2The Nagelian framework and its aftermath

3Part-whole Reduction: Intrinsicality, Fundamentality, and Temporality

  3.1Intrinsicality and fundamentality

  3.2Temporality

    3.2.1Atemporal part-whole reduction

    3.2.2Temporal (causal) part-whole reduction

4The Protein Folding Problem

  4.1Background and significance

  4.2Reductive explanation in molecular biology

5Philosophical Evaluation

  5.1Application: intrinsicality and fundamentality

  5.2Relevance: temporality

6Conclusion

Journal Article.  12333 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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