Reduction as an A Posteriori Relation
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Reduction between theories in physics is often approached as an a priori relation in the sense that reduction is often taken to depend only on a comparison of the mathematical structures of two theories. I argue that such approaches fail to capture one crucial sense of “reduction,” whereby one theory encompasses the set of real behaviors that are well-modeled by the other. Reduction in this sense depends not only on the mathematical structures of the theories, but also on empirical facts about where our theories succeed at describing real systems, and is therefore an a posteriori relation.