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Materialism : metaphysics and methodology Constabaris, Adam John


In contemporary discussions of materialism, the term "reductionism" is used in several senses. First, I distinguish materialism, the metaphysical claim that "everything is physical" from physicalism, which is, broadly speaking, a research strategy that gives some sort of privilege to physics. I discuss two theses commonly associated with materialism, the view that the natural world is divided into levels corresponding to the various special sciences, and the claim that physics is "causally complete". In the second chapter, I discuss reductionism in the sense in which that term applies to empiricists who espoused a doctrine known as "the Unity of Science". Ametaphysical empiricists were less concerned with the classical materialist goal of ontological economy than they were with conceptual economy, establishing a single theory stated in the language of physics which would be adequate for all scientific purposes. According to various empiricists, such unity was to be achieved by explaining higher level theories in terms of lower level theories, a phenomenon known as intertheoretic reduction. I then show how the most widely discussed account of intertheoretic reduction as a kind of derivation is related to empiricistic views on the nature of theories and of explanation. I discuss the reasons that the empiricist's linguistic account of reductionism was re-formulated by metaphysically minded philosophers as the claim that every property is a physical property (property reductionism). Then I discuss the "multiple realizability" arguments, which are widely thought to establish both the methodological autonomy of the special sciences from physics and the metaphysical thesis that there are non-physical properties. I argue that the conclusion of such arguments is better stated as a conclusion about the representational power of physical language. Next, I state the recent arguments that 'non-reductive' forms of materialism based on supervenience (conceived as a relation between physical and non-physical properties) appear to be compatible with nonstandard emergentist versions of materialism, and suggest that a more linguistic construal of supervenience ought to be employed in the formulation of materialism. In the final chapter, I attempt to show the independence of reductionist methodological claims from the metaphysical claim of property reductionism.

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