•  29
    Permissible idealizations for the purpose of prediction
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 85 92-100. 2021.
    Every model leaves out or distorts some factors that are causally connected to its target phenomenon -- the phenomenon that it seeks to predict or explain. If we want to make predictions, and we want to base decisions on those predictions, what is it safe to omit or to simplify, and what ought a causal model to describe fully and correctly? A schematic answer: the factors that matter are those that make a difference to the target phenomenon. There are several ways to understand differencemaking.…Read more
  •  28
    What is going on under the hood in philosophical analysis, that familiar process that attempts to uncover the nature of such philosophically interesting kinds as knowledge, causation, and justice by the method of posit and counterexample? How, in particular, do intuitions tell us about philosophical reality? The standard, if unappealing, answer is that philosophical analysis is conceptual analysis—that what we learn about when we do philosophy is in the first instance facts about our own minds. …Read more
  •  49
    Explanation, Abstraction, and Difference‐Making
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 99 (3): 726-731. 2019.
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Volume 99, Issue 3, Page 726-731, November 2019.
  •  31
    Philosophy Unbound: Comments on Edouard Machery's Philosophy Within Its Proper Bounds
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 98 (1): 239-245. 2019.
  •  36
    The structure of asymptotic idealization
    Synthese 196 (5): 1713-1731. 2019.
    Robert Batterman and others have argued that certain idealizing explanations have an asymptotic form: they account for a state of affairs or behavior by showing that it emerges “in the limit”. Asymptotic idealizations are interesting in many ways, but is there anything special about them as idealizations? To understand their role in science, must we augment our philosophical theories of idealization? This paper uses simple examples of asymptotic idealization in population genetics to argue for a…Read more
  • Maxwell's deduction of the probability distribution over the velocity of gas molecules—one of the most important passages in physics (Truesdell)—presents a riddle: a physical discovery of the first importance was made in a single inferential leap without any apparent recourse to empirical evidence. Tychomancy proposes that Maxwell's derivation was not made a priori; rather, he inferred his distribution from non-probabilistic facts about the dynamics of intermolecular collisions. Further, the inf…Read more
  •  163
    Quantum Mechanics and Frequentism: A Reply to Ismael
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (4): 575-577. 1996.
  •  2
    The causes of characteristic properties: Insides versus categories
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 37 (5): 502-503. 2014.
    Cimpian & Salomon propose that the inherence heuristic, a tendency to explain the behavior and other properties of things in terms of their intrinsic characteristics, precedes and explains “essentialist thinking” about natural kinds. This commentary reviews evidence that it is rather essentialism that precedes the assumption of inherence, and suggests that essentialism can do without the inherence heuristic altogether.
  •  10
    Bigger Than Chaos: Understanding Complexity Through Probability (review)
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (4): 875-882. 2010.
  •  145
    Comments on Woodward, Making Things Happen
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 77 (1): 171-192. 2008.
    No Abstract
  • Bigger Than Chaos: The Probabilistic Structure of Complex Systems
    Dissertation, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick. 1996.
    The dissertation concerns the use of physical probability in higher level scientific theories such as statistical mechanics and evolutionary biology. My focus is complex systems--systems containing large numbers of parts that move independently yet interact strongly, such as gases and ecosystems. Although the underlying dynamics of such systems are prohibitively complex, their macrolevel behavior can often be predicted given information about physical probabilities. ;The technique has the follow…Read more
  •  91
    Objective evidence and absence: Comment on Sober
    Philosophical Studies 143 (1). 2009.
    Elliott Sober argues that the statistical slogan “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” cannot be taken literally: it must be interpreted charitably as claiming that the absence of evidence is (typically) not very much evidence of absence. I offer an alternative interpretation, on which the slogan claims that absence of evidence is (typically) not objective evidence of absence. I sketch a definition of objective evidence, founded in the notion of an epistemically objective likelihood, …Read more
  •  66
    High-Level Exceptions Explained
    Erkenntnis 79 (S10): 1819-1832. 2014.
    Why are causal generalizations in the higher-level sciences “inexact”? That is, why do they have apparent exceptions? This paper offers one explanation: many causal generalizations cite as their antecedent—the \(F\) in \(Fs\,\, {\textit{are}}\,\, G\) —a property that is not causally relevant to the consequent, but which is rather “entangled” with a causally relevant property. Entanglement is a relation that may exist for many reasons, and that allows of exceptions. Causal generalizations that sp…Read more
  •  27
    Review of C. S. Bertuglia and F. Vaio, "Nonlinearity, chaos, and complexity"
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (2): 447-451. 2009.
  •  85
    Stochastic Independence and Causal Connection
    Erkenntnis 80 (S3): 605-627. 2015.
    Assumptions of stochastic independence are crucial to statistical models in science. Under what circumstances is it reasonable to suppose that two events are independent? When they are not causally or logically connected, so the standard story goes. But scientific models frequently treat causally dependent events as stochastically independent, raising the question whether there are kinds of causal connection that do not undermine stochastic independence. This paper provides one piece of an answe…Read more
  •  107
    A closer look at the 'new' principle
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 46 (4): 545-561. 1995.
    David Lewis, Michael Thau, and Ned Hall have recently argued that the Principal Principle—an inferential rule underlying much of our reasoning about probability—is inadequate in certain respects, and that something called the ‘New Principle’ ought to take its place. This paper argues that the Principle Principal need not be discarded. On the contrary, Lewis et al. can get everything they need—including the New Principle—from the intuitions and inferential habits that inspire the Principal Princi…Read more
  •  68
    Précis of Depth (review)
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 84 (2): 447-460. 2012.
  •  40
    Science as we know it is “dappled”. Its picture of the world is a mosaic in which different aspects of the world, different systems, are represented by narrow-scope theories or models that are largely disconnected from one another. The best explanation for this disunity in our representation of the world, Nancy Cartwright has proposed, is a disunity in the world itself: rather than being governed by a small set of strict fundamental laws, events unfold according to a patchwork of principles cove…Read more
  •  106
    Bayesian confirmation theory—abbreviated to in these notes—is the predominant approach to confirmation in late twentieth century philosophy of science. It has many critics, but no rival theory can claim anything like the same following. The popularity of the Bayesian approach is due to its flexibility, its apparently effortless handling of various technical problems, the existence of various a priori arguments for its validity, and its injection of subjective and contextual elements into the proces…Read more
  •  132
    Special-Science Autonomy and the Division of Labor
    In Mark Couch & Jessica Pfeifer (eds.), The Philosophy of Philip Kitcher, . forthcoming.
    Philip Kitcher has advocated and advanced an influential antireductionist picture of science on which the higher-level sciences pursue their aims largely independently of the lower-level sciences -- a view of the sciences as autonomous. Explanatory autonomy as Kitcher understands it is incompatible with explanatory reductionism, the view that a high-level explanation is inevitably improved by providing a lower-level explanation of its parts. This paper explores an alternative conception of auton…Read more
  •  182
    Theoretical terms without analytic truths
    Philosophical Studies 160 (1): 167-190. 2012.
    When new theoretical terms are introduced into scientific discourse, prevailing accounts imply, analytic or semantic truths come along with them, by way of either definitions or reference-fixing descriptions. But there appear to be few or no analytic truths in scientific theory, which suggests that the prevailing accounts are mistaken. This paper looks to research on the psychology of natural kind concepts to suggest a new account of the introduction of theoretical terms that avoids both definit…Read more
  •  225
    The two major modern accounts of explanation are the causal and unification accounts. My aim in this paper is to provide a kind of unification of the causal and the unification accounts, by using the central technical apparatus of the unification account to solve a central problem faced by the causal account, namely, the problem of determining which parts of a causal network are explanatorily relevant to the occurrence of an explanandum. The end product of my investigation is a causal account of…Read more
  •  45
    In D. M. Borchert (ed.), Encyclopedia of Philosophy, second edition, . 2006.
    A physical system has a chaotic dynamics, according to the dictionary, if its behavior depends sensitively on its initial conditions, that is, if systems of the same type starting out with very similar sets of initial conditions can end up in states that are, in some relevant sense, very different. But when science calls a system chaotic, it normally implies two additional claims: that the dynamics of the system is relatively simple, in the sense that it can be expressed in the form of a mathema…Read more
  •  142
    Review of Woodward, M aking Things Happen (review)
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (1). 2007.
    The concept of causation plays a central role in many philosophical theories, and yet no account of causation has gained widespread acceptance among those who have investigated its foundations. Theories based on laws, counterfactuals, physical processes, and probabilistic dependence and independence relations (the list is by no means exhaustive) have all received detailed treatment in recent years---{}and, while no account has been entirely successful, it is generally agreed that the concept has…Read more
  •  20
    Scientific Sharing, Communism, and the Social Contract
    In Thomas Boyer-Kassem, Conor Mayo-Wilson & Michael Weisberg (eds.), Scientific Collaboration and Collective Knowledge, Oxford University Press. pp. 3--33. 2017.
    Research programs regularly compete to achieve the same goal, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA or the construction of a TEA laser. The more the competing programs share information, the faster the goal is likely to be reached, to society's benefit. But the "priority rule"—the scientific norm mandating that the first program to reach the goal in question receive all the credit for the achievement—provides a powerful disincentive for programs to share information. How, then, is the cl…Read more
  •  114
    Objective probability as a guide to the world
    Philosophical Studies 95 (3): 243-275. 1999.
    According to principles of probability coordination, such as Miller's Principle or Lewis's Principal Principle, you ought to set your subjective probability for an event equal to what you take to be the objective probability of the event. For example, you should expect events with a very high probability to occur and those with a very low probability not to occur. This paper examines the grounds of such principles. It is argued that any attempt to justify a principle of probability coordination …Read more