•  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
  •  242
    Depth: An Account of Scientific Explanation
    Harvard University Press. 2008.
    Approaches to explanation -- Causal and explanatory relevance -- The kairetic account of /D making -- The kairetic account of explanation -- Extending the kairetic account -- Event explanation and causal claims -- Regularity explanation -- Abstraction in regularity explanation -- Approaches to probabilistic explanation -- Kairetic explanation of frequencies -- Kairetic explanation of single outcomes -- Looking outward -- Looking inward.
  •  147
    The Role of the Priority Rule in Science
    Journal of Philosophy 100 (2): 55-79. 2003.
    Science's priority rule rewards those who are first to make a discovery, at the expense of all other scientists working towards the same goal, no matter how close they may be to making the same discovery. I propose an explanation of the priority rule that, better than previous explanations, accounts for the distinctive features of the rule. My explanation treats the priority system, and more generally, any scheme of rewards for scientific endeavor, as a device for achieving an allocation of reso…Read more
  •  167
    Does the Bayesian theory of confirmation put real constraints on our inductive behavior? Or is it just a framework for systematizing whatever kind of inductive behavior we prefer? Colin Howson (Hume's Problem) has recently championed the second view. I argue that he is wrong, in that the Bayesian apparatus as it is usually deployed does constrain our judgments of inductive import, but also that he is right, in that the source of Bayesianism's inductive prescriptions is not the Bayesian machinery…Read more
  •  105
    The bayesian treatment of auxiliary hypotheses: Reply to Fitelson and Waterman
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 56 (4): 913-918. 2005.
    Bayesian treatment of auxiliary hypotheses rests on a misinterpretation of Strevens's central claim about the negligibility of certain small probabilities. The present paper clarifies and proves a very general version of the claim. The project Clarifications The negligibility argument Generalization and proof.
  •  77
    Reconsidering authority
    In Tamar Szabo Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Oxford Studies in Epistemology Volume 3, Oxford University Press. pp. 294-330. 2010.
    How to regard the weight we give to a proposition on the grounds of its being endorsed by an authority? I examine this question as it is raised within the epistemology of science, and I argue that “authority-based weight” should receive special handling, for the following reason. Our assessments of other scientists’ competence or authority are nearly always provisional, in the sense that to save time and money, they are not made nearly as carefully as they could be---indeed, they are typically m…Read more
  •  92
    How Idealizations Provide Understanding
    In Stephen Grimm, Christoph Baumberger & Sabine Ammon (eds.), Explaining Understanding: New Essays in Epistemology and the Philosophy of Science, Routledge. forthcoming.
    How can a model that stops short of representing the whole truth about the causal production of a phenomenon help us to understand the phenomenon? I answer this question from the perspective of what I call the simple view of understanding, on which to understand a phenomenon is to grasp a correct explanation of the phenomenon. Idealizations, I have argued in previous work, flag factors that are casually relevant but explanatorily irrelevant to the phenomena to be explained. Though useful to the …Read more
  •  35
    Only causation matters: reply to Ahn et al
    Cognition 82 (1): 71-76. 2001.
    This paper is a reply to a discussion of my paper The Essentialist Aspect of Naive Theories by Ahn, Kalish, Gelman, Medin, Luhmann, Atran, Coley and Shafto; both the discussion and my reply appeared in the November 2001 issue of Cognition.
  •  36
    Herding and the quest for credit
    Journal of Economic Methodology 20 (1). 2013.
    The system for awarding credit in science—the priority rule—functions, I have proposed elsewhere, to bring about something close to a socially optimal distribution of scientists among scientific research programs. If all goes well, then, potentially fruitful new ideas will be explored, unpromising ideas will be ignored, and fashionable but oversubscribed ideas will be deprived of further resources. Against this optimistic background, the present paper investigates the ways in which things might …Read more
  •  72
    Why Represent Causal Relations?
    In Alison Gopnik & Laura Schulz (eds.), Causal Learning: Psychology, Philosophy, Computation, Oxford University Press. pp. 245--260. 2007.
    Why do we represent the world around us using causal generalizations, rather than, say, purely statistical generalizations? Do causal representations contain useful additional information, or are they merely more efficient for inferential purposes? This paper considers the second kind of answer: it investigates some ways in which causal cognition might aid us not because of its expressive power, but because of its organizational power. Three styles of explanation are considered. The first, build…Read more
  •  107
    Causality Reunified
    Erkenntnis 78 (2): 299-320. 2013.
    Hall has recently argued that there are two concepts of causality, picking out two different kinds of causal relation. McGrath, and Hitchcock and Knobe, have recently argued that the facts about causality depend on what counts as a “default” or “normal” state, or even on the moral facts. In the light of these claims you might be tempted to agree with Skyrms that causal relations constitute, metaphysically speaking, an “amiable jumble”, or with Cartwright that ‘causation’, though a single word, e…Read more
  •  336
    The Explanatory Role of Irreducible Properties
    Noûs 46 (4): 754-780. 2012.
    I aim to reconcile two apparently conflicting theses: (a) Everything that can be explained, can be explained in purely physical terms, that is, using the machinery of fundamental physics, and (b) some properties that play an explanatory role in the higher level sciences are irreducible in the strong sense that they are physically undefinable: their nature cannot be described using the vocabulary of physics. I investigate the contribution that physically undefinable properties typically make to ex…Read more
  •  36
    A symposium on Michael Strevens' book "Tychomancy", concerning the psychological roots and historical significance of physical intuition about probability in physics, biology, and elsewhere.
  •  169
    The three cardinal aims of science are prediction, control, and explanation; but the greatest of these is explanation. Also the most inscrutable: prediction aims at truth, and control at happiness, and insofar as we have some independent grasp of these notions, we can evaluate science’s strategies of prediction and control from the outside. Explanation, by contrast, aims at scientific understanding, a good intrinsic to science and therefore something that it seems we can only look to science its…Read more
  •  224
    Physically contingent laws and counterfactual support
    Philosophers' Imprint 8 1-20. 2008.
    The generalizations found in biology, psychology, sociology, and other high-level sciences are typically physically contingent. You might conclude that they play only a limited role in scientific investigation, on the grounds that physically contingent generalizations offer no or only feeble counterfactual support. But the link between contingency and counterfactual support is more complex than is commonly supposed. A certain class of physically contingent generalizations, comprising many, perha…Read more
  •  39
    Complexity Theory
    In Paul Humphreys (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Science, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    Complexity theory attempts to explain, at the most general possible level, the interesting behaviors of complex systems. Two such behaviors are the emergence of simple or stable high-level behavior from relatively complex low-level behavior, and the emergence of sophisticated high-level behavior from relatively simple low-level behavior; they are often found nested in the same system. Concerning the emergence of simplicity, this essay examines Herbert Simon's explanation from near-decomposabilit…Read more
  •  2
    Nonlinearity, Chaos, and Complexity (review)
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (2): 447-451. 2009.