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Reduction and Instrumentalism in Genetics

Philip Gasper
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 59, No. 4 (Dec., 1992), pp. 655-670
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/188135
Page Count: 16
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Reduction and Instrumentalism in Genetics
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Abstract

In his important paper "1953 and All That: A Tale of Two Sciences" (1984), Philip Kitcher defends biological antireductionism, arguing that the division of biology into subfields such as classical and molecular genetics is "not simply... a temporary feature of our science stemming from our cognitive imperfections but [is] the reflection of levels of organization in nature" (p. 371). In a recent discussion of Kitcher's views, Alexander Rosenberg has argued, first, that Kitcher has shown that the reduction of classical to molecular genetics is impossible only because of our intellectual limitations and, second, that this kind of antireductionism supports an instrumentalist approach to biological theory. I argue that both of Rosenberg's claims should be rejected despite the fact that Kitcher misdiagnoses the central reason for the failure of reduction.

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