Reductive Explanation in the Biological Sciences

Authored / Springer

This book develops a philosophical account that reveals the major characteristics that make an explanation in the life sciences reductive and distinguish them from non-reductive explanations. Understanding what reductive explanations are enables one to assess the conditions under which reductive explanations are adequate and thus enhances debates about explanatory reductionism. The account of reductive explanation presented in this book has three major characteristics. First, it emerges from a critical reconstruction of the explanatory practice of the life sciences itself. Second, the account is monistic since it specifies one set of criteria that apply to explanations in the life sciences in general. Finally, the account is ontic in that it traces the reductivity of an explanation back to certain relations that exist between objects in the world (such as part-whole relations and level relations), rather than to the logical relations between sentences.

I received the Offermann-Hergarten Award from the University of Cologne for this book.

Reviews of this book:

Explanation in the Special Sciences.
The Case of Biology and History

Edited, with O. Scholz, D. Plenge, A. Hüttemann / Springer, 2014

This volume brings together debates about explanation in the philosophy of biology and in the philosophy of history. It explores two major points of contact between the two fields: First, historical explanations seem to be found in the biological science as well (e.g., in evolutionary biology). What is it that makes some biological explanations historical in character? What are the commonalities of explanations in the historical and in the biological sciences? For instance, do both types of explanations appeal to historical laws, are both narratives, or are both how-possible explanations? Second, a recent trend that can be observed in the philosophy of history and in the philosophy of biology is the emphasis on mechanisms and mechanistic explanation. Are biological mechanisms fundamentally different from historical and social mechanisms or is their difference just one of degree? What are the similarities and differences between narrative explanations in the historical science and mechanistic explanations in biology, and do the similarities warrant characterizing historical explanation as a subtype of mechanistic explanation?

Contributing authors: Stephan Berry, Carl F. Craver, Alexander Gebharter, Doris Gerber, Stuart Glennan, Daniel Immerwahr, Marie I. Kaiser, Philip Kitcher, Ulrich Krohs, Daniel Plenge, Alexander Reutlinger, Oliver R. Scholz, Gerhard Schurz, Daniel Steel, Gerhard Müller-Strahl, Aviezer Tucker, Derek D. Turner

Philip Kitcher.
Pragmatic Naturalism

Edited, with A. Seide / ontos, 2013

This volume is the result of the 15th Münster Lectures in Philosophy hosted by the University of Münster. The basic idea of the Lectures is to give advanced students of the Department the opportunity to get into discussion with important philosophers of our days. In line with what has become by now a venerable tradition, Kitcher gave a lecture to a public audience and he participated in a colloquium on the following two days. At this colloquium, eight groups of advanced students and faculty members presented papers on a wide range of topics from Kitcher’s work. Both the lecture and the papers are published in this volume. In addition, it contains Kitcher’s detailed replies to the colloquium papers.

Although Kitcher’s naturalistic and pragmatist impulses are discernible in most of his writings, he has only lately started to explicitly defend what he now calls pragmatic naturalism. His work on pragmatic naturalism contains innovative insights into questions about naturalism and pragmatism, while at the same time providing a meta-philosophical, unificatory framework for his longstanding work in various philosophical fields. Kitcher’s paper that is printed in this volume is one of the first publications in which he sets out his idea of pragmatic naturalism.

Die Debatte um die Einheiten der natürlichen Selektion.
Pluralistische Lösungsansätze

Authored / VDM Verlag, 2008

What is the level of organization on which natural selection operates? Are genes, organisms or groups the entities that are selected in adaptive evolutionary processes? This book discusses recent pluralistic solutions to the problem of the units of selection. After introducing central concepts and ideas from evolutionary biology, this book constructs a novel map of the philosophical debate and locates gene selectionism, multilevel selection theory, and description pluralism on the map. The book closes with a critical discussion of different versions of description pluralism and assesses their ability to solve the units of selection problem.