Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 433-448

First online:

Emergence, therefore antireductionism? A critique of emergent antireductionism

  • Tudor M. BaetuAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of Maryland Email author 

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Emergent antireductionism in biological sciences states that even though all living cells and organisms are composed of molecules, molecular wholes are characterized by emergent properties that can only be understood from the perspective of cellular and organismal levels of composition. Thus, an emergence claim (molecular wholes are characterized by emergent properties) is thought to support a form of antireductionism (properties of higher-level molecular wholes can only be understood by taking into account concepts, theories and explanations dealing with higher-level entities). I argue that this argument is flawed: even if molecular wholes are characterized by emergent properties and even if many successful explanations in biology are not molecular, there is no entailment between the two claims.


Reduction Emergence Mechanisms Molecular biology