Realism and Reductionism

  • Edward MackinnonEmail author
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 289)


Philosophical discussions of many problems implicitly presuppose an interpretation of physics. This chapter considers the changes in four problematic issues consequent upon a change in the interpretation of physics. The first is continuity. Interpreting the language of classical physics as a specialized extension of an ordinary language core allows for an underlying continuity in the historical development of physics, rather than a series of paradigm shifts. The second problematic concerns realism. We distinguish the functional realism, implicit in ordinary language and its extensions, from theories concerning a correspondence with objective reality. Functional realism banks on public objects and is adequate to the practice of physics. The third problem area concerns emergence and reduction. Traditional global reductionism relies on a metaphysics that is an idealization of distinctive features of classical physics. Physics, as interpreted here, does not support the traditional program of global reductionism, but accepts reductionism as a default position between levels and allows the possibility of emergence. The final problem concerns the human order and the mind-body problem. We outline a way in which the human order, which has epistemological primacy, relates to the quantum order, which has ontological primacy.


Classical Physic Ordinary Language Folk Psychology Intentional Stance Collective Intentionality 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.California State University East BayOaklandUSA

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