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The special sciences are those sciences other than physics that are sometimes thought to be reducible to physics, or to stand in some similar relation of dependence to physics as the "fundamental" science. The usual list includes chemistry, biology, neuroscience, and many others. The status of the special sciences, and the explication of their precise relationship to physics, is a matter of much controversy in philosophy of science. Some, famously including Jerry Fodor,[1] hold that the special sciences are not in fact reducible, but autonomous: they have laws of their own, which could not be deduced from the laws of physics, even in principle. Others, like W.V.O. Quine,[2] are well-disposed towards reductionism, and may even see physics as "including" the special sciences, almost as subdivisions. Most contemporary philosophers of science, if they are not committed to reducibility, believe that the facts of the special sciences at least depend on the facts of physics by supervening on them.


  1. Fodor, J. (1974): "Special sciences and the disunity of science as a working hypothesis", Synthese, 28, pp. 77-115.
  2. Quine, W.V.O. (1981): Theories and Things, Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Mass.

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