CSS colloquium: Jakob Dam Mønsted, CSS, Aarhus Universitet

Process reductionism – reverse engineering a process ontology for biology

2019.01.24 | Randi Mosegaard

Date Wed 10 Apr
Time 14:15 15:45
Location Koll D (1531-211)

I examine the different notions of reductionism in philosophy of science and particularly philosophy of biology, and contrast this to the notion of reductionism encountered in the field of biology. From this I identify a key problem associated with current modes of ontological reductionism, namely that a discontinuity arises when processes are attempted to be reduced to substances. This discontinuity is exemplified by the concept of emergence; the notion that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. In order to attempt to alleviate this problem for reductionism, I propose that rather than adhering to the status quo of a substance ontology, we should explore the possibility of basing reductionism in process ontology. What this entails is an acceptance that the fundamental units of our world are not substances, but rather processes. In order to examine this view, I construct a rudimentary “process ontology light” for biology and apply it to examples derived from biology. This allows me to draw the contours of a seemingly new form of ontological reductionism: Process reductionism. The advantages of this new reductionism seem to be the prospects of a unification between reductionism and emergence and a form of type-type ontological reductionism that resists arguments from multiply realizability.

Lecture / talk