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The Varieties of Molecular Explanation*

Marco J. Nathan
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 79, No. 2 (April 2012), pp. 233-254
DOI: 10.1086/664791
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/664791
Page Count: 22
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The Varieties of Molecular Explanation*
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Abstract

Reductionists in biology claim that all biological events can be explained in terms of genes and macromolecules alone, while antireductionists argue that some biological events must be explained at a higher level. The literature, however, does not distinguish between different kinds of molecular explanation. The goal of this article is to identify and analyze three such kinds. The analysis of molecular explanations herein carries an important philosophical implication; in shunning crude reductionism and extreme versions of holism, we can combine the insights of thoughtful reductionists with sophisticated antireductionism. When this is done, the question of explanatory reductionism becomes less substantial than often supposed.

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