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Profile: John Matthewson (Massey University, University of Sydney)
  1. John Matthewson & Brett Calcott, Mechanistic Explanation Without Mechanisms.
    We provide an account of mechanistic representation and explanation that has several advantages over previous proposals. In our view, explaining mechanistically is not simply giving an explanation of a mechanism. Rather, an explanation is mechanistic because of particular relations that hold between a mechanical representation, or model, and the target of explanation. Under this interpretation, mechanistic explanation is possible even when the explanatory target is not a mechanism. We argue that taking this view is not only coherent and plausible, it (...)
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  2. John Matthewson (2011). Trade-Offs in Model-Building: A More Target-Oriented Approach. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 42 (2):324-333.
    In his 1966 paper "The Strategy of model-building in Population Biology", Richard Levins argues that no single model in population biology can be maximally realistic, precise and general at the same time. This is because these desirable model properties trade-off against one another. Recently, philosophers have developed Levins' claims, arguing that trade-offs between these desiderata are generated by practical limitations on scientists, or due to formal aspects of models and how they represent the world. However this project is not complete. (...)
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  3. John Matthewson & Brett Calcott (2011). Mechanistic Models of Population-Level Phenomena. Biology and Philosophy 26 (5):737-756.
    This paper is about mechanisms and models, and how they interact. In part, it is a response to recent discussion in philosophy of biology regarding whether natural selection is a mechanism. We suggest that this debate is indicative of a more general problem that occurs when scientists produce mechanistic models of populations and their behaviour. We can make sense of claims that there are mechanisms that drive population-level phenomena such as macroeconomics, natural selection, ecology, and epidemiology. But talk of mechanisms (...)
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  4. John Matthewson & Michael Weisberg (2009). The Structure of Tradeoffs in Model Building. Synthese 170 (1):169 - 190.
    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 show that several of these relationships exhibit tradeoffs and discuss (...)
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