Reductionism and antireductionism are among the most largely and hotly debated topics in philosophy of biology today. In this section of the volume, aiming to convey the current situation in the philosophy of the natural and life sciences, these topics are specifically addressed in Mehmet Elgin’s paper, focusing on biochemistry. Elgin strongly supports reductionism, first by claiming that the now classical argument based on multiple realizability does not entail anti-reductionism and secondly highlighting how the version of methodological reductionism that biochemistry has been adopting – centered on “the principle that functions of biomolecules can be understood in terms of physical and chemical properties of those molecules” – has proved largely successful, teaching “us new knowledge about the biological systems”. Taken together, these two arguments are deemed to provide good grounds for a thorough defence of reductionism. While Elgin chooses biochemistry as his privileged standpoint on the issue, I shall dwell on the stances emerging in the health sciences. Although the health sciences are closely intertwined with – amongst others – biology and biochemistry, they also have their own peculiar features. Referring to some examples taken from different medical disciplines, I will question whether reductionism can be regarded as not only a viable, option, but as the best solution to gain new knowledge about biomedical systems. I shall suggest that considerations arising from current medical research and practice support a pluralistic approach to the topic, in which both reductionist and antireductionist stances can be accommodated in different ways.
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