On the dangers of making scientific models ontologically independent: Taking Richard Levins' warnings seriously
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Biology and Philosophy 21 (5):703-724 (2006)
Levins and Lewontin have contributed significantly to our philosophical understanding of the structures, processes, and purposes of biological mathematical theorizing and modeling. Here I explore their separate and joint pleas to avoid making abstract and ideal scientific models ontologically independent by confusing or conflating our scientific models and the world. I differentiate two views of theorizing and modeling, orthodox and dialectical, in order to examine Levins and Lewontin’s, among others, advocacy of the latter view. I compare the positions of these two views with respect to four points regarding ontological assumptions: (1) the origin of ontological assumptions, (2) the relation of such assumptions to the formal models of the same theory, (3) their use in integrating and negotiating different formal models of distinct theories, and (4) their employment in explanatory activity. Dialectical is here used in both its Hegelian–Marxist sense of opposition and tension between alternative positions and in its Platonic sense of dialogue between advocates of distinct theories. I investigate three case studies, from Levins and Lewontin as well as from a recent paper of mine, that show the relevance and power of the dialectical understanding of theorizing and modeling.
|Keywords||Dialectics Ecology Evolutionary genetics Richard Levins Models Modeling Theory Ontological assumptions Ontology|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
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
Nancy Cartwright (1983). How the Laws of Physics Lie. Oxford University Press.
John Dewey (2008/1958). Experience and Nature. McCutchen Pr.
Nancy Cartwright (1999). The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science. Cambridge University Press.
Helen Longino (2002). The Fate of Knowledge. Princeton University Press.
Nancy Cartwright (1989). Nature's Capacities and Their Measurement. Oxford University Press.
Citations of this work BETA
Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther, Ryan Giordano, Michael D. Edge & Rasmus Nielsen (2015). The Mind, the Lab, and the Field: Three Kinds of Populations in Scientific Practice. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 52:12-21.
Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther, Michael J. Wade & Christopher C. Dimond (2013). Pluralism in Evolutionary Controversies: Styles and Averaging Strategies in Hierarchical Selection Theories. Biology and Philosophy 28 (6):957-979.
Fabrizzio Guerrero Mc Manus (2012). Development and Mechanistic Explanation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 43 (2):532-541.
Donald B. Thompson (2011). Natural Food and the Pastoral: A Sentimental Notion? [REVIEW] Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 24 (2):165-194.
Jani Raerinne (2013). Robustness and Sensitivity of Biological Models. Philosophical Studies 166 (2):285-303.
Similar books and articles
Anya Plutynski (2006). Strategies of Model Building in Population Genetics. Philosophy of Science 73 (5):755-764.
Thomas W. Simon (1988). Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin: The Dialectical Biologist. Environmental Ethics 10 (3):279-284.
Peter Taylor (2000). Socio-Ecological Webs and Sites of Sociality:Levins' Strategy of Model Building Revisited. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 15 (2):197-210.
John Matthewson (2011). Trade-Offs in Model-Building: A More Target-Oriented Approach. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 42 (2):324-333.
Jay Odenbaugh (2003). Complex Systems, Trade-Offs, and Theoretical Population Biology: Richard Levin's "Strategy of Model Building in Population Biology" Revisited. Philosophy of Science 70 (5):1496-1507.
Jay Odenbaugh (2003). Complex Systems, Trade‐Offs, and Theoretical Population Biology: Richard Levin's “Strategy of Model Building in Population Biology” Revisited. Philosophy of Science 70 (5):1496-1507.
James Justus (2006). Loop Analysis and Qualitative Modeling: Limitations and Merits. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 21 (5):647-666.
Michael Weisberg (2006). Forty Years of 'the Strategy': Levins on Model Building and Idealization. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 21 (5):623-645.
James Justus (2005). Qualitative Scientific Modeling and Loop Analysis. Philosophy of Science 72 (5):1272-1286.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads221 ( #7,377 of 1,726,249 )
Recent downloads (6 months)19 ( #42,367 of 1,726,249 )
How can I increase my downloads?