The Science, Politics, and Ontology of Life-Philosophy (Bloomsbury Studies in Philosophy)

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    The spine may show some creasing through previous use. Ultimately we would never send any book we would not pick up and read ourselves. All new books sold by AwesomeBooks: Will be completely new, sourced from the publisher. Since biological properties such as fitness supervene on physical properties, fitness can be nothing more than a combination of physical properties, even though no such property complex is necessary for having a particular fitness value. Higher level theories abstract away from irrelevant variation in lower level features and thereby arrive at generalizations that are explanatory precisely because they do not include features irrelevant to explaining the phenomenon Putnam , Strevens From this perspective, theory reduction of classical to molecular genetics is impossible as the many—many relations between classical and molecular kinds make any reductive account radically disjunctive.

    At the same time, the notion of supervenience implies that classical and molecular genetics are not incommensurable, and that molecular genetics can shed light on the exceptions of classical genetics. A related critique of reductionism in genetics is due to Philip Kitcher It is not that the complexities of any reduction due to many-one relations between molecular and higher level kinds exceed our cognitive capacities. Rather, the reductive, molecular account does not adequately explain because it does not involve the natural kinds that underlie the appropriate causal relations. Principles of classical genetics e.

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    Rephrasing these cellular processes in molecular terms leads to an account that mentions various disjunctive combinations of molecular kinds, while failing to exhibit the unified kinds that are the causes of the cellular process. This is true but fails to address the core issue. Critics of reductionism do not argue that each higher level type corresponds to several lower level tokens which is trivially true or that molecular biology can study token phenomena only.

    Rather, the point is that a higher level type corresponds to several lower level types , and for each of these lower level kinds a distinct molecular account obtains.

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    Thus, a unified as opposed to disjunctive causal explanation of the higher level phenomenon appears impossible. In some cases, disjunctive explanations at a lower level seem to explain better than unified explanations at higher levels. Elliott Sober extends this line of argument: an explanation in terms of higher level kinds can be more unified or general by encompassing heterogeneous lower level kinds, but this same heterogeneity exhibits important differences in scientifically interesting properties. Only the lower level science can account for such differences and therefore, in this sense, offers a deeper explanation than the higher level science.

    Explanations are not better or worse along a one-dimensional scale. There are several epistemic virtues an explanation can possess, such as generality, depth, or specificity. Sometimes a lower level explanation is better relative to one epistemic virtue, while a higher level explanation is preferable relative to another, such as unification. And unification itself can be explicated differently in terms of functional or structural features of biological systems see, e. Many contemporary accounts of explanatory reduction focus on mechanisms and the study of model organisms.

    One reply to the multiple realization objection from this perspective argues explicitly for token-token reduction, discussing how the causal description of a token mechanism explains Delehanty However, this stratagem ignores the key point of contention because token-token reduction is uncontroversial. The focus on token phenomena or individual organisms fails to address an important epistemological feature of scientific knowledge: explanations often cover types of phenomena.

    In many biological contexts, such as developmental biology , the intellectual aim is to explain phenomena instantiated in many organisms and the use of model organisms is predicated on this aim. Explaining development—as understood by many developmental biologists—means to have an account of ontogeny exhibited by individual organisms belonging to a larger group e. As the same morphological structure may develop in different species by means of different processes and based on the action of different genes, multiple realization obtains and is relevant for such explanations Laubichler and Wagner Moreover, even if the aim is to explain a feature of a single organism, it does not follow that an explanation should appeal exclusively to factors on the lowest level.

    An explanation should only include factors that are explanatorily relevant; an irrelevant factor is one whose omission from or modification in the explanation does not prevent the explanandum from following Strevens This also holds for mechanistic explanation, which should cite those features as components of a mechanism whose modification would make a causal difference to the explanandum phenomenon Craver For instance, chromosomes are relevant parts of the mechanisms needed to explain Mendelian patterns of inheritance Darden , but this particular explanation will apply regardless of the lower level, molecular composition of the chromosomes e.

    In the context of developmental biology, even during the development of a single organism, a structure may be present across time and have a stable developmental-functional role, but its underlying molecular and cellular basis may change Brigandt , Kirschner Entities above the molecular level can be more robust so that when some molecular processes change or break down these higher level entities are not modified or removed.

    Knocking out a gene need not have any impact on ontogeny due to genetic redundancy, while eliminating a particular cell or group of cells may dramatically interfere with normal development Brigandt a, , Mitchell A higher level causal connection can be more salient in that the regular operation of the mechanism strongly depends on the presence of this kind of causal relation. Such a higher level causal relation is realized by molecular entities and their interactions i. This is one reason why some biological sciences preferentially invoke higher level entities and processes in the face of multiple realization, explaining in terms of higher level natural kinds and causes.

    In summary, the level s of organization a successful explanation addresses often depends on the particular explanandum. If the aim is to explain a type of phenomenon, multiple realization issues many-one relations are likely pertinent. In the explanation of a token phenomenon, the explanation should include lower level factors only to the extent that they are explanatorily relevant for that particular explanandum. Every reductive explanation in science involves representations of the systems or features to be related by reduction. Note that this is not the question of how theory structure is represented; see, e.

    Almost all of the discussion surrounding one-many Section 4.

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