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The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 10, 2001

Philosophy of Science

Michael Ruse
Pages 43-50

Reduction in Biology

In this paper I shall discuss the concept of reduction—ontological, methodological, and epistemological or theoretical—in the biological sciences, with special emphasis on genetics and evolutionary biology. I suggest that perhaps, because the biological world has a form different from the non-biological world, it is appropriate to think of terms or metaphors different from those we would use when trying to understand the inorganic world. As such, the attempt to show that the biological is simply a deductive consequence of the physicochemical is doomed to failure. The philosophical complexity of reductionism on the one hand and its potential for advancing the study of biology on the other thus requires continuing the ongoing dialogue between philosophers and biologists.

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