Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 319–347

Theory structure, reduction, and disciplinary integration in biology

  • Kenneth F. Schaffner

DOI: 10.1007/BF00860432

Cite this article as:
Schaffner, K.F. Biol Philos (1993) 8: 319. doi:10.1007/BF00860432


This paper examines the nature of theory structure in biology and considers the implications of those theoretical structures for theory reduction. An account of biological “theories” as interlevel prototypes embodying causal sequences, and related to each other by strong analogies, is presented, and examples from the neurosciences are provided to illustrate these “middle-range” theories. I then go on to discuss several modifications of Nagel's classical model of theory reduction, and indicate at what stages in the development of reductions these models might best apply. Finally I consider several implications of these analyses of theory structure and reduction for disciplinary integration in biology.

Key words

Theory structurereductionintegrationneuroscienceAplysiaparallel processingexplanation

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth F. Schaffner
    • 1
  1. 1.714 T. Gelman LibraryGeorge Washington UniversityWashington, D.C.USA