Conservative Reductionism: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Conservative Reductionism

1st Edition

By Michael Esfeld, Christian Sachse


204 pages

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Conservative Reductionism sets out a new theory of the relationship between physics and the special sciences within the framework of functionalism. It argues that it is wrong-headed to conceive an opposition between functional and physical properties (or functional and physical descriptions, respectively) and to build an anti-reductionist argument on multiple realization. By contrast, (a) all properties that there are in the world, including the physical ones, are functional properties in the sense of being causal properties, and (b) all true descriptions (laws, theories) that the special sciences propose can in principle be reduced to physical descriptions (laws, theories) by means of functional reduction, despite multiple realization. The book develops arguments for (a) from the metaphysics of properties and the philosophy of physics. These arguments lead to a conservative ontological reductionism. It then develops functional reduction into a fully-fledged, conservative theory reduction by means of introducing functional sub-types that are coextensive with physical types, illustrating that conservative reductionism by means of case studies from biology (notably the relationship between classical and molecular genetics).


'[T]his book is recommended as a thought-provoking re-assessment of ontology for contemporary physics, and of functional reduction in the special sciences.' – Cliff Hooker, University of Newcastle, Australia, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. The Dilemma of Functionalism 2. The Metaphysics of Causal Structures 3. The Theory of Evolution and Causal Structures in Biology 4. Case Study: Classical and Molecular Genetics 5. Conservative Functional Reduction 6. Conclusion

About the Authors

Michael Esfeld is Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. His research interests include the metaphysics of science, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of physics.

Christian Sachse is Senior Lecturer in history and philosophy of science at the University of Lausanne. His research interests include the metaphysics of science, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of biology.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in the Philosophy of Science

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHILOSOPHY / Metaphysics
PHILOSOPHY / Mind & Body