Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 319-347

First online:

Theory structure, reduction, and disciplinary integration in biology

  • Kenneth F. SchaffnerAffiliated with714 T. Gelman Library, George Washington University

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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 structure reduction integration neuroscience Aplysia parallel processing explanation