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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Sophie Horowitz

Second Advisor

Ned Markosian

Subject Categories

Epistemology | Metaphysics


Many would agree that there is something generally appealing and attractive about reduction. By this, I do not mean that reductive theories are accepted across the board, nor do I mean that they should be. All I mean is that there is something recognizably “good” about the reductive method that may be outweighed by other considerations. For instance, it is extremely rare for one to reject the reductionist position of a given domain while conceding that the proposed reductive procedure is successful. Typically, the opposition consists in denying that the subject matter can be reduced. This suggests an unspoken rule of the dialectical that, if something can be reduced, then it should be reduced; or, all else being equal, a reductive theory is to be favored over a non-reductive theory. In a similar light, conventional metaphysical wisdom tells us that primitivist positions should only be accepted as a last resort. Again, there may be cases where the situation is dire enough for us to resort to primitivism. Nevertheless, few will oppose the general idea that we ought to reach for primitivism only when all other accounts fail. Let us call these attitudes ‘UNSPOKEN RULE’ and ‘LAST RESORT’, respectively.

In this dissertation, I offer an explanation of how these attitudes apply to ideological reduction by appealing to what I call dialectical virtues and vices. For this end, the first half of the dissertation is dedicated to clarifying what ideology is and what ideological reduction involves. In the second half, I introduce the notion dialectical virtues and vices and argue for their epistemic relevance. Dialectical virtues are features of a theory that place its advocates at a comparative advantage in the context of a debate; dialectical vices are those that place them at a comparative disadvantage. I argue that there are certain dialectical virtues and vices that are associated with (ideological) reductionism and primitivism, and that the above attitudes are the results of our being sensitive to them. Furthermore, I put forth this explanation, not as a merely psychological or sociological explanation of these attitudes. Instead, I argue that dialectical virtues and vices are epistemically relevant and that have serious implications for our evaluation of theories.


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.