Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

2015 Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James (Jim) CleavesII, Daniele L. Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Daniel Rouan, Tilman Spohn, Stéphane Tirard, Michel Viso


Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-44185-5_1359


Reductionism is a philosophical notion that encompasses a set of ontological, methodological, and epistemological claims about how entities, processes, methods, and knowledge relate to one another across levels of organization and/or scientific domains. Typically, the question is whether such elements at higher levels of organization (i.e., biological) can be deduced from elements at lower levels (i.e., chemical).


Reductionism encompasses several related claims that revolve around three major types of objects a reduction might concern: the “furniture of the world” (ontological claims), the methods and heuristics of science (methodological claims), theories, explanations, and, more generally, knowledge (epistemological claims) (e.g., Ayala 1974; Sarkar 1992; Nagel 1998).

Ontological reductionism is typically a claim about how entities and processes belonging to a given level of organization can be shown to be entities and processes belonging to a lower level of...


Explanatory reduction Inter-theoretic reduction Methodological reduction Ontological reduction 
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References and Further Reading

  1. Ayala FJ (1974) Introduction. In: Ayala FJ, Dobzhansky T (eds) Studies in the philosophy of biology. Reductionism and related problems. McMillan, London, pp vii–xixCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Kim J (1999) Making sense of emergence. Philos Stud 95:3–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Nagel E (1961) The reduction of theories. In: The structure of science: problems in the logic of scientific explanation. Harcourt Brace and World, New York, p 336–397Google Scholar
  4. Nagel T (1998) Reductionism and antireductionism. In: Bock GR, Goode JA (eds) The limits of reductionism in biology. Wiley, Chichester, pp 3–10Google Scholar
  5. Sarkar S (1992) Models of reduction and categories of reductionism. Synthese 91:167–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Schaffner K (1967) Approaches to reduction. Philos Sci 34(2):137–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Wimsatt W (2006) Reductionism and its heuristics: making methodological reductionism honest. Synthese 151:445–475CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut d’Histoire et Philosophie des Sciences et Techniques (IHPST)Université Paris 1-Panthéon SorbonneParisFrance