Complex Systems and Non-reductive Explanation


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




Some explanations are reductive; others are not. Current philosophical theories of explanation are ill-equipped to identify the conditions under which non-reductive explanations are preferable to reductive ones. This project remedies this situation by providing a theory of explanation that shows how these conditions should be identified. The need for such a theory is particularly great in the domain of complex systems, in which the presence of many interacting elements makes information about the properties of individual elements less explanatory than information about patterns of interaction between elements. The study argues that the reason some explanations ought to remain at a higher level has nothing to do with human epistemic limitations, and everything to do with the way the world is organized.