•  625
    Three Kinds of Idealization
    Journal of Philosophy 104 (12): 639-659. 2007.
    Philosophers of science increasingly recognize the importance of idealization: the intentional introduction of distortion into scientific theories. Yet this recognition has not yielded consensus about the nature of idealization. e literature of the past thirty years contains disparate characterizations and justifications, but little evidence of convergence towards a common position
  •  343
    Despite their best efforts, scientists may be unable to construct models that simultaneously exemplify every theoretical virtue. One explanation for this is the existence of tradeoffs: relationships of attenuation that constrain the extent to which models can have such desirable qualities. In this paper, we characterize three types of tradeoffs theorists may confront. These characterizations are then used to examine the relationships between parameter precision and two types of generality. We sh…Read more
  •  277
    Contemporary literature in philosophy of science has begun to emphasize the practice of modeling, which differs in important respects from other forms of representation and analysis central to standard philosophical accounts. This literature has stressed the constructed nature of models, their autonomy, and the utility of their high degrees of idealization. What this new literature about modeling lacks, however, is a comprehensive account of the models that figure in to the practice of modeling.…Read more
  •  276
    Epistemic Landscapes and the Division of Cognitive Labor
    Philosophy of Science 76 (2): 225-252. 2009.
    Because of its complexity, contemporary scientific research is almost always tackled by groups of scientists, each of which works in a different part of a given research domain. We believe that understanding scientific progress thus requires understanding this division of cognitive labor. To this end, we present a novel agent-based model of scientific research in which scientists divide their labor to explore an unknown epistemic landscape. Scientists aim to climb uphill in this landscape, where…Read more
  •  215
    Robustness Analysis
    Philosophy of Science 73 (5): 730-742. 2006.
    Modelers often rely on robustness analysis, the search for predictions common to several independent models. Robustness analysis has been characterized and championed by Richard Levins and William Wimsatt, who see it as central to modern theoretical practice. The practice has also been severely criticized by Steven Orzack and Elliott Sober, who claim that it is a nonempirical form of confirmation, effective only under unusual circumstances. This paper addresses Orzack and Sober's criticisms by g…Read more
  •  199
    Who is a Modeler?
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 58 (2): 207-233. 2007.
    Many standard philosophical accounts of scientific practice fail to distinguish between modeling and other types of theory construction. This failure is unfortunate because there are important contrasts among the goals, procedures, and representations employed by modelers and other kinds of theorists. We can see some of these differences intuitively when we reflect on the methods of theorists such as Vito Volterra and Linus Pauling on the one hand, and Charles Darwin and Dimitri Mendeleev on the…Read more
  •  183
    Scientific research is almost always conducted by communities of scientists of varying size and complexity. Such communities are effective, in part, because they divide their cognitive labor: not every scientist works on the same project. Philip Kitcher and Michael Strevens have pioneered efforts to understand this division of cognitive labor by proposing models of how scientists make decisions about which project to work on. For such models to be useful, they must be simple enough for us to und…Read more
  •  168
    The Robust Volterra Principle
    Philosophy of Science 75 (1): 106-131. 2008.
    Theorizing in ecology and evolution often proceeds via the construction of multiple idealized models. To determine whether a theoretical result actually depends on core features of the models and is not an artifact of simplifying assumptions, theorists have developed the technique of robustness analysis, the examination of multiple models looking for common predictions. A striking example of robustness analysis in ecology is the discovery of the Volterra Principle, which describes the effect of …Read more
  •  163
  •  155
    one takes to be the most salient, any pair could be judged more similar to each other than to the third. Goodman uses this second problem to showthat there can be no context-free similarity metric, either in the trivial case or in a scientifically ...
  •  148
    Forty years of 'the strategy': Levins on model building and idealization (review)
    Biology and Philosophy 21 (5): 623-645. 2006.
    This paper is an interpretation and defense of Richard Levins’ “The Strategy of Model Building in Population Biology,” which has been extremely influential among biologists since its publication 40 years ago. In this article, Levins confronted some of the deepest philosophical issues surrounding modeling and theory construction. By way of interpretation, I discuss each of Levins’ major philosophical themes: the problem of complexity, the brute-force approach, the existence and consequence of tra…Read more
  •  126
    Idealization
    with Alkistis Elliott-Graves
    Philosophy Compass 9 (3): 176-185. 2014.
    This article reviews the recent literature on idealization, specifically idealization in the course of scientific modeling. We argue that idealization is not a unified concept and that there are three different types of idealization: Galilean, minimalist, and multiple models, each with its own justification. We explore the extent to which idealization is a permanent feature of scientific representation and discuss its implications for debates about scientific realism
  •  125
    Evolutionary biology – or, more precisely, two (purported) applications of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, namely, evolutionary psychology and what has been called human behavioral biology – is on the cusp of becoming the new rage among legal scholars looking for interdisciplinary insights into the law. We argue that as the actual science stands today, evolutionary biology offers nothing to help with questions about legal regulation of behavior. Only systematic misrepresentati…Read more
  •  116
    Challenges to the Structural Conception of Chemical Bonding
    Philosophy of Science 75 (5): 932-946. 2008.
    The covalent bond, a difficult concept to define precisely, plays a central role in chemical predictions, interventions, and explanations. I investigate the structural conception of the covalent bond, which says that bonding is a directional, submolecular region of electron density, located between individual atomic centers and responsible for holding the atoms together. Several approaches to constructing molecular models are considered in order to determine which features of the structural conc…Read more
  •  105
    Modeling in biology and economics
    Biology and Philosophy 26 (5): 613-615. 2011.
    Much of biological and economic theorizing takes place by modeling, the indirect study of real-world phenomena by the construction and examination of models. Books and articles about biological and economic theory are often books and articles about models, many of which are highly idealized and chosen for their explanatory power and analytical convenience rather than for their fit with known data sets. Philosophers of science have recognized these facts and have developed literatures about the n…Read more
  •  67
    Qualitative theory and chemical explanation
    Philosophy of Science 71 (5): 1071-1081. 2002.
    Roald Hoffmann and other theorists claim that we ought to use highly idealized chemical models (“qualitative models”) in order to increase our understanding of chemical phenomena, even though other models are available which make more highly accurate predictions. I assess this norm by examining one of the tradeoffs faced by model builders and model users—the tradeoff between precision and generality. After arguing that this tradeoff obtains in many cases, I discuss how the existence of this trad…Read more
  •  64
    Philosophy of chemistry
    with Paul Needham and Robin Hendry
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2011.
  •  63
    Simulation and Similarity: Using Models to Understand the World is an account of modeling in contemporary science. Modeling is a form of surrogate reasoning where target systems in the natural world are studied using models, which are similar to these targets. My book develops an account of the nature of models, the practice of modeling, and the similarity relation that holds between models and their targets. I also analyze the conceptual tools that allow theorists to identify the trustworthy as…Read more
  •  62
    Segregation That No One Seeks
    with Ryan Muldoon and Tony Smith
    Philosophy of Science 79 (1): 38-62. 2012.
    This paper examines a series of Schelling-like models of residential segregation, in which agents prefer to be in the minority. We demon- strate that as long as agents care about the characteristics of their wider community, they tend to end up in a segregated state. We then investigate the process that causes this, and conclude that the result hinges on the similarity of informational states amongst agents of the same type. This is quite dierent from Schelling-like behavior, and sug- gests (in …Read more
  •  60
    This article is an overview of some of the contemporary debates in philosophy of chemistry. We discuss the nature of chemical substances, the individuation of chemical kinds, the relationship between chemistry and physics, and the nature of the chemical bond.
  •  43
    Target Directed Modeling
    Modern Schoolman 87 (3-4): 251-266. 2010.
  •  42
    Richard Levins' philosophy of science
    Biology and Philosophy 21 (5): 603-605. 2006.
  •  37
    Group-level traits are not units of selection
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 37 (3): 271-272. 2014.
  •  35
    Interpreting Aristotle on mixture: problems about elemental composition from Philoponus to Cooper
    with Rega Wood
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 35 (4): 681-706. 2004.
    Aristotle’s On generation and corruption raises a vital question: how is mixture, or what we would now call chemical combination, possible? It also offers an outline of a solution to the problem and a set of criteria that a successful solution must meet. Understanding Aristotle’s solution and developing a viable peripatetic theory of chemical combination has been a source of controversy over the last two millennia. We describe seven criteria a peripatetic theory of mixture must satisfy: uniformi…Read more
  •  34
    Proponents of individual-based modeling in ecology claim that their models explain the emergence of population-level behavior. This article argues that individual-based models have not, as yet, provided such explanations. Instead, individual-based models can and do demonstrate and explain the emergence of population-level behaviors from individual behaviors and interactions
  •  31
    The Dark Galaxy Hypothesis
    with Melissa Jacquart, Barry Madore, and Marja Seidel
    Philosophy of Science 85 (5): 1204-1215. 2018.
    Gravitational interactions allowed astronomers to conclude that dark matter rings all luminous galaxies in gigantic halos, but this only accounts for a fraction of the total mass of dark matter believed to exist. Where is the rest? We hypothesize that some of it resides in dark galaxies, pure dark matter halos that either never possessed or have totally lost their baryonic matter. This paper explores methodological challenges that arise due to the nature of observation in astrophysics, and exami…Read more
  •  28
    Interpreting Aristotle on mixture: Problems about elemental composition from philoponus to Cooper
    Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 35 (4). 2004.
    Aristotle’s On generation and corruption raises a vital question: how is mixture, or what we would now call chemical combination, possible? It also offers an outline of a solution to the problem and a set of criteria that a successful solution must meet. Understanding Aristotle’s solution and developing a viable peripatetic theory of chemical combination has been a source of controversy over the last two millennia. We describe seven criteria a peripatetic theory of mixture must satisfy: uniformi…Read more