Shifting to structures in physics and biology: A prophylactic for promiscuous realism

Abstract
Within the philosophy of science, the realism debate has been revitalised by the development of forms of structural realism. These urge a shift in focus from the object oriented ontologies that come and go through the history of science to the structures that remain through theory change. Such views have typically been elaborated in the context of theories of physics and are motivated by, first of all, the presence within such theories of mathematical equations that allow straightforward representation of the relevant structures; and secondly, the implications of such theories for the individuality and identity of putative objects. My aim in this talk is to explore the possibility of extending such views to biological theories. An obvious concern is that within the context of the latter it is typically insisted that we cannot find the kinds of highly mathematised structures that structural realism can point to in physics. I shall indicate how the model-theoretic approach to theories might help allay such concerns. Furthermore, issues of identity and individuality also arise within biology. Thus Dupre has recently noted that there exists a ‘General Problem of Biological Individuality’ which relates to the issue of how one divides ‘massively integrated and interconnected’ systems into discrete components. In response Dupre advocates a form of ‘Promiscuous Realism’ that holds, for example, that there is no unique way of dividing the phylogenetic tree into kinds. Instead I shall urge serious consideration of those aspects of the work of Dupre and others that lean towards a structuralist interpretation. By doing so I hope to suggest possible ways in which a structuralist stance might be extended to biology.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
 
Download options
PhilPapers Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 10,724
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
J. Dupre (1996). Promiscuous Realism: Reply to Wilson. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (3):441-444.
John Dupré & Maureen A. O.’Malley (2007). Metagenomics and Biological Ontology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 38 (4):834-846.

View all 39 references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Similar books and articles
Holger Lyre (2004). Holism and Structuralism in (1) Gauge Theory. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 35 (4):643-670.
Michael Devitt (2011). Natural Kinds and Biological Realisms. In Michael O'Rourke, Joseph Keim Campbell & Matthew H. Slater (eds.), Carving Nature at its Joints. Mit Press.
J. Wolff (2012). Do Objects Depend on Structures? British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 63 (3):607-625.
John Dupré (1996). Promiscuous Realism: Reply to Wilson. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (3):441-444.
J. Dupre (1996). Promiscuous Realism: Reply to Wilson. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (3):441-444.
Michael Esfeld (2009). The Modal Nature of Structures in Ontic Structural Realism. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 23 (2):179 – 194.
Robert A. Wilson (1996). Promiscuous Realism. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (2):303-316.
Analytics

Monthly downloads

Added to index

2010-01-07

Total downloads

119 ( #7,755 of 1,098,611 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

31 ( #2,967 of 1,098,611 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature


Discussion
Start a new thread
Order:
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.