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The Devil in the Details – Asymptotic Reasoning in Explanation, Reduction, and Emergence - Oxford Scholarship Online
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The Devil in the Details: Asymptotic Reasoning in Explanation, Reduction, and Emergence

Robert W. Batterman


This book focuses on a form of reasoning in science that I call “asymptotic reasoning.” At base, this type of reasoning involves methods that eliminate details and, in some sense, precision. Asymptotic reasoning has received systematic treatment in physics and applied mathematics, but virtually no attention has been paid to it by philosophers of science. I argue that once one understands the role played by asymptotic reasoning in explanatory arguments of scientists, our philosophical conceptions of explanation, reduction, and emergence require significant modification.

Keywords: asymptotics, Batterman, emergence, explanation, limits, multiple realizability, philosophy of science, reduction, renormalization group, scientific understanding, universality

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2001 Print ISBN-13: 9780195146479
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003 DOI:10.1093/0195146476.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Robert W. Batterman, author
Ohio State University
Author Webpage