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Construction by Reduction

Jeffry L. Ramsey
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 62, No. 1 (Mar., 1995), pp. 1-20
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/188031
Page Count: 20
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Construction by Reduction
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Abstract

Scientists employ a variety of procedures to eliminate degrees of freedom from computationally and/or analytically intractable equations. In the process, they often construct new models and discover new concepts, laws and functional relations. I argue these procedures embody a central notion of reduction, namely, the containment of one structure within another. However, their inclusion in the philosophical concept of reduction necessitates a reevaluation of many standard assumptions about the ontological, epistemological and functional features of a reduction. On the basis of the reevaluation, I advocate a continuum of reduction which proceeds from the eliminative to the constructive. The metaphysical aspects of theory use in constructive reductions are sketched.

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