Forty years of 'the strategy': Levins on model building and idealization [Book 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 tradeoffs, and robustness analysis. I argue that Levins’ article is concerned, at its core, with justifying the use of multiple, idealized models in population biology.
Keywords Richard Levins  Tradeoffs  Models  Model building  Idealization  Robustness  Population biology  Theoretical ecology  Complex systems
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DOI 10.1007/s10539-006-9051-9
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References found in this work BETA
Michael Weisberg (2007). Who is a Modeler? British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 58 (2):207 - 233.
Philip Kitcher (1981). Explanatory Unification. Philosophy of Science 48 (4):507-531.
Michael Weisberg (2006). Robustness Analysis. Philosophy of Science 73 (5):730-742.

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Anya Plutynski (2013). Cancer and the Goals of Integration. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C (4):466-476.

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John Matthewson (2011). Trade-Offs in Model-Building: A More Target-Oriented Approach. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 42 (2):324-333.

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