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[Review of the book Reductive Explanation in the Biological Sciences, by Maiser]

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  • Introduction: Do we really need another discussion of reduction in biology? After all, arguments for reductionism and for anti-reductionism have led to a stalemate, and philosophical investigations have come to focus on the topic of epistemic integration. Fortunately, Marie I. Kaiser takes a step back and addresses the question of what an explanatory reduction is in the first place. Rather than maintaining either that reductionism is the ideal for biology or that it is futile, her notion of 'reduction' permits her to acknowledge that various explanations in biology are reductive, while many genuine biological explanations are not. The core questions guiding her discussion are: \"What is reduction in biology? (in other words, Which important characteristics of actual cases of reduction can be identified?), and Where do the strengths and limitations of reduction in biological practice lie?\" (p.6). These are fruitful philosophical questions. Kaiser also offers a metaphilosophical discussion of various degrees to which philosophy of science can be normative (rather than merely describing science). Developed based on many biological examples, her eventual account of explanatory reduction articulates three different characteristic features of a reductive explanation that permit her to compare and contrast reductive explanations with part-whole explanations and mechanistic explanations.

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    © 2016 Brigandt, I. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
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    • Brigandt, I. (2016). [Review of the book Reductive Explanation in the Biological Sciences, by M. Kaiser]. Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, n.p.
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