Structural problems for reductionism

Leuenberger, S. (2020) Structural problems for reductionism. Philosophical Studies, 177, pp. 3571-3593. (doi: 10.1007/s11098-019-01383-0)

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Universal reductionism—the sort of project pursued by Carnap in the Aufbau, Lewis in his campaign on behalf of Humean supervenience, Jackson in From Metaphysics to Ethics, and Chalmers in Constructing the World—aims to reduce everything to some specified base, more or less austere as it may be. In this paper, I identify two constraints that a promising strategy to argue for universal reductionism needs to satisfy: the exhaustion constraint and the chaining constraint. As a case study, I then consider Chalmers’ Constructing the World, in which a priori implication, or “scrutability”, plays the role of reduction. Chalmers first divides up the total vocabulary of our language into different families, and then argues, for each family separately, that truths involving expressions in that family are scrutable from the putative base. He does not systematically address the question whether “cross-family sentences”—sentences involving expressions from more than one family—are scrutable. I shall argue that this lacuna cannot be filled, since scrutability does not allow for the exhaustion constraint and the chaining constraint to be jointly satisfied. I further suggest that Carnap’s account, in which definability plays the role of reduction, has better prospects of meeting these constraints.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This work was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council [grant number AH/M009610/1].
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Leuenberger, Professor Stephan
Authors: Leuenberger, S.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Philosophy
Journal Name:Philosophical Studies
ISSN (Online):1573-0883
Published Online:09 December 2019
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 The Authors
First Published:First published in Philosophical Studies 177:3571-3593
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
172156The Whole TruthStephan LeuenbergerArts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)AH/M009610/1Arts - Philosophy