Reduction as an A Posteriori Relation

Reduction as an A Posteriori Relation Abstract Reduction between theories in physics is often approached as an a priori relation in the sense that reduction is often taken to depend only on a comparison of the mathematical structures of two theories. I argue that such purely formal approaches fail to capture one crucial sense of ‘reduction,’ whereby one theory encompasses the set of real behaviors that are well-modeled by the other. Reduction in this sense depends not only on the mathematical structures of the theories but also on empirical facts about where the theories succeed at describing real systems, and is therefore an a posteriori relation. I discuss several detailed implications of this claim for the methodology of inter-theory and inter-model reduction in physics. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science Oxford University Press

Reduction as an A Posteriori Relation

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Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
ISSN
0007-0882
eISSN
1464-3537
D.O.I.
10.1093/bjps/axx026
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Abstract Reduction between theories in physics is often approached as an a priori relation in the sense that reduction is often taken to depend only on a comparison of the mathematical structures of two theories. I argue that such purely formal approaches fail to capture one crucial sense of ‘reduction,’ whereby one theory encompasses the set of real behaviors that are well-modeled by the other. Reduction in this sense depends not only on the mathematical structures of the theories but also on empirical facts about where the theories succeed at describing real systems, and is therefore an a posteriori relation. I discuss several detailed implications of this claim for the methodology of inter-theory and inter-model reduction in physics. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com

Journal

The British Journal for the Philosophy of ScienceOxford University Press

Published: Aug 23, 2017

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