In the face of causal complexity, scientists reconstitute phenomena in order to arrive at a more simplified and partial picture that ignores most of the “bigger picture.” This paper will distinguish between two modes of reconstituting phenomena: one moving down to a level of greater decomposition (toward organizational parts of the original phenomenon), and one moving up to a level of greater abstraction (toward different differences regarding the phenomenon). The first aim of the paper is to illustrate that phenomena are moving targets, i.e., they are not fixed once and for all, but are adapted, if necessary, on the basis of the preferred perspective adopted for pragmatic reasons. The second aim is to analyze in detail the moving-up mode of reconstituting phenomena. This includes an exposition of the kind of pragmatic-pluralistic picture resulting from it.
KeywordsReconstituting phenomena Causal complexity Abstraction Disciplinary perspectives Pluralism Nature-nurture
I want to thank the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh and Martin Carrier for their great support during the time this paper was written. I also want to thank Bill Bechtel, Uljana Feest, Lisa Gannett, Peter Godfrey-Smith, Jens Harbecke, Evelyn Fox Keller, Helen Longino, Sandra Mitchell, Ken Schaffner and one of the two anonymous referees for interesting and helpful feedback. I want to particularly thank Alexander Reutlinger for the many inspiring discussions related to the topics of this paper.
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