• The subject of this edited volume is the idea of levels of organization: roughly, the idea that the natural world is segregated into part-whole relationships of increasing spatiotemporal scale and complexity. The book comprises a collection of essays that raise the idea of levels into its own topic of analysis. Owing to the wide prominence of the idea of levels, the scope of the volume is aimed at theoreticians, philosophers, and practicing researchers of all stripes in the life sciences. The vo…Read more
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    A New Look at ‘Levels of Organization’ in Biology
    Erkenntnis 2019 1-26. forthcoming.
    Despite its pervasiveness, the concept of ‘levels of organization’ has received relatively little attention in its own right. I propose here an emerging approach that posits ‘levels’ as a fragmentary concept situated within an interest-relative matrix of operational usage within scientific practice. To this end I propose one important component of meaning, namely the epistemic goal motivating the term’s usage, which recovers a remarkably conserved and sufficiently unifying significance attributa…Read more
  •  29
    Why is There No Successful Whole Brain Simulation (Yet)?
    with Klaus M. Stiefel
    Biological Theory 14 (2): 122-130. 2019.
    With the advent of powerful parallel computers, efforts have commenced to simulate complete mammalian brains. However, so far none of these efforts has produced outcomes close to explaining even the behavioral complexities of animals. In this article, we suggest four challenges that ground this shortcoming. First, we discuss the connection between hypothesis testing and simulations. Typically, efforts to simulate complete mammalian brains lack a clear hypothesis. Second, we treat complications r…Read more
  •  31
    The significance of levels of organization for scientific research: A heuristic approach
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 68 34-41. 2018.
    The concept of 'levels of organization' has come under fire recently as being useless for scientific and philosophical purposes. In this paper, we show that 'levels' is actually a remarkably resilient and constructive conceptual tool that can be, and in fact is, used for a variety of purposes. To this effect, we articulate an account of the importance of the levels concept seen in light of its status as a major organizing concept of biology. We argue that the usefulness of ‘levels’ is best seen …Read more
  •  41
    Levels of Organization in Biology
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
    Levels of organization are structures in nature, usually defined by part-whole relationships, with things at higher levels being composed of things at the next lower level. Typical levels of organization that one finds in the literature include the atomic, molecular, cellular, tissue, organ, organismal, group, population, community, ecosystem, landscape, and biosphere levels. References to levels of organization and related hierarchical depictions of nature are prominent in the life sciences and…Read more
  •  44
    Despite the ubiquity of “levels of organization” in the scientific literature, a nascent “levels skepticism” now claims that the concept of levels is an inherently flawed, misleading, or otherwise inadequate notion for understanding how life scientists produce knowledge about the natural world. However, levels skeptics rely on the maligned “layer-cake” account of levels stemming from Oppenheim and Putnam’s defense of the unity of science for their critical commentary. Recourse to layer-cake leve…Read more
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    The role of models in the process of epistemic integration: the case of the Reichardt motion detector
    History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 36 (1): 90-113. 2014.
    Recent work on epistemic integration in the life sciences has emphasized the importance of integration in thinking about explanatory practice in science, particularly for articulating a robust alternative to reductionism and anti-reductionism. This paper analyzes the role of models in balancing the relative contributions of lower- and higher-level epistemic resources involved in this process. Integration between multiple disciplines proceeds by constructing a problem agenda (Love 2008), a set of…Read more
  •  4
    Book Reviews (review)
    Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 44 (1): 235-245. 2013.
  •  74
    Interventionism and Supervenience: A New Problem and Provisional Solution
    with Markus8 Eronen
    International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 28 (2): 185-202. 2014.
    The causal exclusion argument suggests that mental causes are excluded in favour of the underlying physical causes that do all the causal work. Recently, a debate has emerged concerning the possibility of avoiding this conclusion by adopting Woodward's interventionist theory of causation. Both proponents and opponents of the interventionist solution crucially rely on the notion of supervenience when formulating their positions. In this article, we consider the relation between interventionism an…Read more