A Neurathian Conception of the Unity of Science
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- Potochnik, A. Erkenn (2011) 74: 305. doi:10.1007/s10670-010-9228-0
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An historically important conception of the unity of science is explanatory reductionism, according to which the unity of science is achieved by explaining all laws of science in terms of their connection to microphysical law. There is, however, a separate tradition that advocates the unity of science. According to that tradition, the unity of science consists of the coordination of diverse fields of science, none of which is taken to have privileged epistemic status. This alternate conception has roots in Otto Neurath’s notion of unified science. In this paper, I develop a version of the coordination approach to unity that is inspired by Neurath’s views. The resulting conception of the unity of science achieves aims similar to those of explanatory reductionism, but does so in a radically different way. As a result, it is immune to the criticisms facing explanatory reductionism. This conception of unity is also importantly different from the view that science is disunified, and I conclude by demonstrating how it accords better with scientific practice than do conceptions of the disunity of science.