Most philosophers and scientist alike, talk about the "fundamental" parts of science in reductionist terms. But, I wanted to ask how do those "fundamental" parts of science appear in non-reductionist philosophy of science?

Whether those "parts" are entities, theories, or whatever.

I think that how it is something ends up being classified "fundamental", in science, would help answer my question.

closed as unclear what you're asking by Swami Vishwananda, virmaior, Jordan S, wolf-revo-cats, philosodad Nov 11 '17 at 4:27

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  • This question was also asked here on Physics SE. – Andrei Geanta Oct 29 '17 at 20:52
  • Hi, welcome to Philosophy SE. Please visit our Help Center to see what questions we answer and how to ask. Unfortunately, your question is not suitable for this site in its current form, it is too broad and we do not give discussions or surveys here, they can be found in online encyclopedias, see Foundationalism and Emergent Properties. We aim at more focused and pointed questions. – Conifold Oct 29 '17 at 21:01
  • a little broad, why not edit out the 2nd paragraph? that may then sit better – user29299 Oct 29 '17 at 21:23
  • @user3293056 thank you for the suggestion – user8839370 Oct 29 '17 at 21:25
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    It is unclear what "this problem" or "reductionist manner" are. Which problem, what manner? Could you give links to where you are getting background on this from, it unclear what "this topic" means to you, "fundamental" is used very broadly and loosely. – Conifold Oct 29 '17 at 21:36

In science nothing can be called fundamental. This is why ex nihilo creation is popular in physics, such that 'Nothing' can be called fundamental. Time and space are not fundamental, or not provably so, so no time-bound extended phenomenon of the type science deals with can be fundamental.

This is the reason why metaphysics exists, so that physics does not have to worry about fundamental questions and can get on with examining appearances. The phrase 'fundamental physics' is deceptive. It will never be fundamental until it incorporates ontology and metaphysics.

Hence time and space are considered explanda for metaphysics, not for physics, leaving physics as non-reductive. This is as it should be. There is much confusion on this point but most dictionaries will clearly place space-time in metaphysics, meaning that only in metaphysics do we deal with fundamental questions.

  • Can you suggest a good text to read which explains your answer in detail – user8839370 Oct 30 '17 at 13:55
  • In physics we have fundamental particles and fundamental interactions. It is true that there are theories that talk about something more fundamental than what we now consider elementary particles. But that is yet to be experimentally proven. – Andrei Geanta Oct 30 '17 at 14:07
  • my question is not what is fundamental but how do you define a fundamental object. Also, physicists do have to worry about the philosophical implications of their theories. "Physics without philosophy is engineering" - Einstein – user8839370 Oct 30 '17 at 17:57
  • In physics, an object is fundamental if it is not made of other objects. In contrast, composite objects/particles are those who are made of fundamental objects. – Andrei Geanta Oct 31 '17 at 11:13
  • Yes, Physics cannot examine the origin of material objects so cannot be fundamental. – PeterJ Oct 31 '17 at 12:26

Lets take the simple example of a molecule to query what fundamental might mean in such a situation; molecules are made up of atoms, and for this reason we say that atoms are more fundamental than molecules; and this is the usual, conventional sense.

However, suppose in some speculative world there are atoms but for some reason it's not possible to organise them into molecules; this would be a poor kind of atom; it's fundamentally important that atoms can be so arranged in our world. This in a way has a primitive sense of telos, that atoms are such in a way in our world that molecules can be formed; either way, we see that there is more than one sense of fundamental in the notion of a fundamental particle.

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