•  1
    Mesoscale modeling is often considered merely as a practical strategy used when information on lower-scale details is lacking, or when there is a need to make models cognitively or computationally tractable. Without dismissing the importance of practical constraints for modeling choices, we argue that mesoscale models should not just be considered as abbreviations or placeholders for more “complete” models. Because many systems exhibit different behaviors at various spatial and temporal scales, …Read more
  •  236
    Response to Belot’s “Whose Devil? Which Details?‘
    Philosophy of Science 72 (1): 154-163. 2005.
    I respond to Belot's argument and defend the view that sometimes `fundamental theories' are explanatorily inadequate and need to be supplemented with certain aspects of less fundamental `theories emeritus'.
  •  7
    ‘Into a Mist’: Asymptotic theories on a caustic
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 28 (3): 395-413. 1997.
  •  35
    Universality and RG Explanations
    Perspectives on Science 27 (1): 26-47. 2019.
    In its broadest sense, "universality" is a technical term for something quite ordinary. It refers to the existence of patterns of behavior by physical systems that recur and repeat despite the fact that in some sense the situations in which these patterns recur and repeat are different. Rainbows, for example, always exhibit the same pattern of spacings and intensities of their bows despite the fact that the rain showers are different on each occasion. They are different because the shapes of the…Read more
  •  34
    Biology meets Physics: Reductionism and Multi-scale Modeling of Morphogenesis
    with Sara Green
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 7161 20-34. 2017.
    A common reductionist assumption is that macro-scale behaviors can be described "bottom-up" if only sufficient details about lower-scale processes are available. The view that an "ideal" or "fundamental" physics would be sufficient to explain all macro-scale phenomena has been met with criticism from philosophers of biology. Specifically, scholars have pointed to the impossibility of deducing biological explanations from physical ones, and to the irreducible nature of distinctively biological pr…Read more
  •  21
    Philosophical Implications of Kadanoff's work on the Renormalization Group
    Journal of Statistical Physics 167 (3-4). 2017.
    This paper investigates the consequences for our understanding of physical theories as a result of the development of the renormalization group. Kadanoff's assessment of these consequences is discussed. What he called the ``extended singularity theorem'' poses serious difficulties for philosophical interpretation of theories. Several responses are discussed. The resolution demands a philosophical rethinking of the role of mathematics in physical theorizing.
  •  344
    Game theoretic explanations and the evolution of justice
    with Justin D'Arms and Krzyzstof Gorny
    Philosophy of Science 65 (1): 76-102. 1998.
    Game theoretic explanations of the evolution of human behavior have become increasingly widespread. At their best, they allow us to abstract from misleading particulars in order to better recognize and appreciate broad patterns in the phenomena of human social life. We discuss this explanatory strategy, contrasting it with the particularist methodology of contemporary evolutionary psychology. We introduce some guidelines for the assessment of evolutionary game theoretic explanations of human beh…Read more
  •  104
    Multiple realizability and universality
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 51 (1): 115-145. 2000.
    This paper concerns what Jerry Fodor calls a 'metaphysical mystery': How can there by macroregularities that are realized by wildly heterogeneous lower level mechanisms? But the answer to this question is not as mysterious as many, including Jaegwon Kim, Ned Block, and Jerry Fodor might think. The multiple realizability of the properties of the special sciences such as psychology is best understood as a kind of universality, where 'universality' is used in the technical sense one finds in the ph…Read more
  •  49
    The Tyranny of Scales
    In The Oxford handbook of philosophy of physics, Oxford University Press. pp. 255-286. 2013.
    This paper examines a fundamental problem in applied mathematics. How can one model the behavior of materials that display radically different, dominant behaviors at different length scales. Although we have good models for material behaviors at small and large scales, it is often hard to relate these scale-based models to one another. Macroscale models represent the integrated effects of very subtle factors that are practically invisible at the smallest, atomic, scales. For this reason it has b…Read more
  •  107
    Discussions of the foundations of Classical Equilibrium Statistical Mechanics (SM) typically focus on the problem of justifying the use of a certain probability measure (the microcanonical measure) to compute average values of certain functions. One would like to be able to explain why the equilibrium behavior of a wide variety of distinct systems (different sorts of molecules interacting with different potentials) can be described by the same averaging procedure. A standard approach is to appea…Read more
  •  35
    The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Physics (edited book)
    Oxford University Press USA. 2013.
    This Handbook provides an overview of many of the topics that currently engage philosophers of physics. It surveys new issues and the problems that have become a focus of attention in recent years. It also provides up-to-date discussions of the still very important problems that dominated the field in the past.
  •  60
    The inconsistency of Physics
    Synthese 191 (13): 2973-2992. 2014.
    This paper discusses a conception of physics as a collection of theories that, from a logical point of view, is inconsistent. It is argued that this logical conception of the relations between physical theories is too crude. Mathematical subtleties allow for a much more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the relations between different physical theories
  •  205
    Reduction and renormalization
    In Gerhard Ernst & Andreas Hüttemann (eds.), Time, Chance and Reduction: Philosophical Aspects of Statistical Mechanics, Cambridge University Press. pp. 159--179. 2006.
    This paper discusses the alleged reduction of Thermodynamics to Statistical Mechanics. It includes an historical discussion of J. Willard Gibbs' famous caution concerning the connections between thermodynamic properties and statistical mechanical properties---his so-called ``Thermodynamic Analogies.'' The reasons for Gibbs' caution are reconsidered in light of relatively recent work in statistical physics on the existence of the thermodynamic limit and the explanation of critical behavior using …Read more
  •  169
    This paper addresses a relatively common scientific (as opposed to philosophical) conception of intertheoretic reduction between physical theories. This is the sense of reduction in which one (typically newer and more refined) theory is said to reduce to another (typically older and coarser) theory in the limit as some small parameter tends to zero. Three examples of such reductions are discussed: First, the reduction of Special Relativity (SR) to Newtonian Mechanics (NM) as (v/c)20; second, the…Read more
  •  161
    Robert Batterman examines a form of scientific reasoning called asymptotic reasoning, arguing that it has important consequences for our understanding of the scientific process as a whole. He maintains that asymptotic reasoning is essential for explaining what physicists call universal behavior. With clarity and rigor, he simplifies complex questions about universal behavior, demonstrating a profound understanding of the underlying structures that ground them. This book introduces a valuable new…Read more
  •  49
    I discuss recent work in ergodic theory and statistical mechanics, regarding the compatibility and origin of random and chaotic behavior in deterministic dynamical systems. A detailed critique of some quite radical proposals of the Prigogine school is given. I argue that their conclusion regarding the conceptual bankruptcy of the classical conceptions of an exact microstate and unique phase space trajectory is not completely justified. The analogy they want to draw with quantum mechanics is not …Read more
  •  31
    Quantum Chaos and Semiclassical Mechanics
    PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1992 50-65. 1992.
    This paper discusses the problem of finding and defining chaos in quantum mechanics. While chaotic time evolution appears to be ubiquitous in classical mechanics, it is apparently absent in quantum mechanics in part because for a bound, isolated quantum system, the evolution of its state is multiply periodic. This has led a number of investigators to search for semiclassical signatures of chaos. Here I am concerned with the status of semiclassical mechanics as a distinct third theory of the asym…Read more
  •  57
    This paper addresses the recent resurgence of Nagel style reduction in the philosophical literature. In particular, it considers the so-called multiple realizability objection to reductionism presented most forcefully by Sober in 1999. It is argued that this objection misses the point of multiple realizability and that there remain serious problems for reductionist methodologies in science.
  •  352
    On the explanatory role of mathematics in empirical science
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (1): 1-25. 2010.
    This paper examines contemporary attempts to explicate the explanatory role of mathematics in the physical sciences. Most such approaches involve developing so-called mapping accounts of the relationships between the physical world and mathematical structures. The paper argues that the use of idealizations in physical theorizing poses serious difficulties for such mapping accounts. A new approach to the applicability of mathematics is proposed.
  •  218
    On the specialness of special functions (the nonrandom effusions of the divine mathematician)
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 58 (2). 2007.
    This article attempts to address the problem of the applicability of mathematics in physics by considering the (narrower) question of what make the so-called special functions of mathematical physics special. It surveys a number of answers to this question and argues that neither simple pragmatic answers, nor purely mathematical classificatory schemes are sufficient. What is required is some connection between the world and the way investigators are forced to represent the world
  •  20
    Philosophers of physics are very familiar with foundational problems in quantum mechanics and in the theory of relativity. In both fields, the puzzles, if not solved, are at least reasonably well formulated and possess well-characterized solution strategies. Sklar’s book Physics and Chance focuses on a pair of theories, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, for which puzzles and foundational paradoxes abound, but where there is very little agreement upon the means with which they may best be…Read more
  •  19
    Physics and Chance: Philosophical Issues in the Foundations of Statistical Mechanics
    with Lawrence Sklar
    Philosophical Review 104 (4): 624. 1995.
    Philosophers of physics are very familiar with foundational problems in quantum mechanics and in the theory of relativity. In both fields, the puzzles, if not solved, are at least reasonably well formulated and possess well-characterized solution strategies. Sklar’s book Physics and Chance focuses on a pair of theories, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, for which puzzles and foundational paradoxes abound, but where there is very little agreement upon the means with which they may best be…Read more
  • I. Prigogine has proposed, and the writings of N. S. Krylov to some extent suggest, a novel and unorthodox solution to foundational problems in statistical mechanics. In particular, the view claims to offer new insight into two interconnected problems: understanding the role of probability in physics, and that of reconciling the irreversibility of physical processes with the temporal symmetry of dynamical theories. The approach in question advocates a conception of the state of a system which in…Read more
  •  36
    Lawrence Sklar philosophy and the foundations of dynamics
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (3): 701-705. 2015.
  •  219
    Minimal Model Explanations
    with Collin C. Rice
    Philosophy of Science 81 (3): 349-376. 2014.
    This article discusses minimal model explanations, which we argue are distinct from various causal, mechanical, difference-making, and so on, strategies prominent in the philosophical literature. We contend that what accounts for the explanatory power of these models is not that they have certain features in common with real systems. Rather, the models are explanatory because of a story about why a class of systems will all display the same large-scale behavior because the details that distingui…Read more
  •  75
    Irreversibility and statistical mechanics: A new approach?
    Philosophy of Science 57 (3): 395-419. 1990.
    I discuss a broad critique of the classical approach to the foundations of statistical mechanics (SM) offered by N. S. Krylov. He claims that the classical approach is in principle incapable of providing the foundations for interpreting the "laws" of statistical physics. Most intriguing are his arguments against adopting a de facto attitude towards the problem of irreversibility. I argue that the best way to understand his critique is as setting the stage for a positive theory which treats SM as…Read more
  •  313
    Idealization and modeling
    Synthese 169 (3): 427-446. 2009.
    This paper examines the role of mathematical idealization in describing and explaining various features of the world. It examines two cases: first, briefly, the modeling of shock formation using the idealization of the continuum. Second, and in more detail, the breaking of droplets from the points of view of both analytic fluid mechanics and molecular dynamical simulations at the nano-level. It argues that the continuum idealizations are explanatorily ineliminable and that a full understanding o…Read more
  •  24
    ‘Into a Mist’: Asymptotic theories on a caustic
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 28 (3): 395-413. 1997.
  •  58
    Explanatory instability
    Noûs 26 (3): 325-348. 1992.