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Unificatory Explanation

Department of Philosophy, University of Denver 264 Sturm Hall, 2000 E. Asbury Avenue 80208 Denver CO, USA [email protected]

Philosophers have traditionally addressed the issue of scientific unification in terms of theoretical reduction. Reductive models, however, cannot explain the occurrence of unification in areas of science where successful reductions are hard to find. The goal of this essay is to analyse a concrete example of integration in biology—the developmental synthesis—and to generalize it into a model of scientific unification, according to which two fields are in the process of being unified when they become explanatorily relevant to each other. I conclude by suggesting that this methodological conception of unity, which is independent of the debate on the metaphysical foundations of science, is closely connected to the notion of interdisciplinarity.


2Some Troubles with Theory Reduction

3Interfield and Mechanistic Unification

4Foundations of the Developmental Synthesis

5Explanatory Relevance

6Concluding Remarks