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Levels: descriptive, explanatory, and ontological

List, Christian (2016) Levels: descriptive, explanatory, and ontological. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Scientists and philosophers frequently speak about levels of description, levels of explanation, and ontological levels. This paper presents a framework for studying levels. I give a general definition of a system of levels (drawing on ideas from category theory) and discuss several applications, some of which refer to descriptive or explanatory levels while others refer to ontological levels. I illustrate the usefulness of this framework by bringing it to bear on some familiar philosophical questions. Is there a hierarchy of levels, with a fundamental level at the bottom? And what does the answer to this question imply for physicalism, the thesis that everything supervenes on the physical? Are there emergent higher-level properties? Are higher-level descriptions reducible to lower-level ones? Can the relationship between normative and non-normative domains be viewed as one involving levels? And might a levelled framework shed light on the relationship between third-personal and first-personal phenomena?


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
List, Christian
Keywords: Levels of description, levels of explanation, ontological levels, supervenience, emergence, reduction, coarse-graining, category theory
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Complex Systems
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
General Issues > Structure of Theories
Depositing User: Christian List
Date Deposited: 25 Apr 2016 12:43
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2016 12:43
Item ID: 12040
Official URL: http://personal.lse.ac.uk/list/pdf-files/Levels.pd...
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Complex Systems
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
General Issues > Structure of Theories
Date: April 2016
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/12040

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