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Profile: Michael Weisberg (University of Pennsylvania)
  1. Michael Weisberg, Models for Modeling.
    Contemporary literature in philosophy of science has begun to emphasize the practice of modeling, which differs in important respects from other forms of representation and analysis central to standard philosophical accounts. This literature has stressed the constructed nature of models, their autonomy, and the utility of their high degrees of idealization. What this new literature about modeling lacks, however, is a comprehensive account of the models that figure in to the practice of modeling. This paper offers a new account of (...)
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  2. Michael Weisberg, Water is Not H2O.
    In defending semantic externalism, philosophers of language have often assumed that there is a straightforward connection between scientific kinds and the natural kinds recognized by ordinary language users.1 For example, the claim that water is H2O assumes that the ordinary language kind water corresponds to a chemical kind, which contains all the molecules with molecular formula H2O as its members. This assumption about the coordination between ordinary language kinds and scientific kinds is important for the externalist program, because it is (...)
     
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  3. Michael Weisberg (forthcoming). Understanding the Emergence of Population Behavior in Individual-Based Models. .
    Proponents of individual-based modeling in ecology claim that their models explain the emergence of population-level behavior. This article argues that individual-based models have not, as yet, provided such explanations. Instead, individual-based models can and do demonstrate and explain the emergence of population-level behaviors from individual behaviors and interactions.
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  4. Alkistis Elliott‐Graves & Michael Weisberg (2014). Idealization. Philosophy Compass 9 (3):176-185.
    This article reviews the recent literature on idealization, specifically idealization in the course of scientific modeling. We argue that idealization is not a unified concept and that there are three different types of idealization: Galilean, minimalist, and multiple models, each with its own justification. We explore the extent to which idealization is a permanent feature of scientific representation and discuss its implications for debates about scientific realism.
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  5. Carlos Santana & Michael Weisberg (2014). Group-Level Traits Are Not Units of Selection. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 37 (3):271-272.
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  6. Michael Weisberg (2013). Modeling Herding Behavior and its Risks. Journal of Economic Methodology 20 (1):6 - 18.
    (2013). Modeling herding behavior and its risks. Journal of Economic Methodology: Vol. 20, Methodology, Systemic Risk, and the Economics Profession, pp. 6-18. doi: 10.1080/1350178X.2013.774843.
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  7. Michael Weisberg (2013). Simulation and Similarity: Using Models to Understand the World. Oxford University Press.
    one takes to be the most salient, any pair could be judged more similar to each other than to the third. Goodman uses this second problem to showthat there can be no context-free similarity metric, either in the trivial case or in a scientifically ...
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  8. J. Christopher Hunt, Kareem Khalifa, Ryan Muldoon, Tony Smith, Michael Weisberg, Michelle G. Gibbons, Elliott O. Wagner, Andreas Wagner, Angela Potochnik & Brian McGill (2012). 1. On Ad Hoc Hypotheses On Ad Hoc Hypotheses (Pp. 1-14). Philosophy of Science 79 (1).
     
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  9. Ryan Muldoon, Tony Smith & Michael Weisberg (2012). Segregation That No One Seeks. Philosophy of Science 79 (1):38-62.
    This paper examines a series of Schelling-like models of residential segregation, in which agents prefer to be in the minority. We demon- strate that as long as agents care about the characteristics of their wider community, they tend to end up in a segregated state. We then investigate the process that causes this, and conclude that the result hinges on the similarity of informational states amongst agents of the same type. This is quite di erent from Schelling-like behavior, and sug- (...)
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  10. Michael Weisberg (2012). Getting Serious About Similarity. Philosophy of Science 79 (5):785-794.
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  11. Ryan Muldoon & Michael Weisberg (2011). Robustness and Idealization in Models of Cognitive Labor. Synthese 183 (2):161-174.
  12. Michael Weisberg, Paul Needham & Robin Hendry, Philosophy of Chemistry. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  13. Michael Weisberg, Samir Okasha & Uskali Mäki (2011). Modeling in Biology and Economics. Biology and Philosophy 26 (5):613-615.
  14. Brian Leiter & Michael Weisberg (2010). Why Evolutionary Biology is (so Far) Irrelevant to Legal Regulation. Law and Philosophy 29 (1):31-74.
    Evolutionary biology – or, more precisely, two (purported) applications of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, namely, evolutionary psychology and what has been called human behavioral biology – is on the cusp of becoming the new rage among legal scholars looking for interdisciplinary insights into the law. We argue that as the actual science stands today, evolutionary biology offers nothing to help with questions about legal regulation of behavior. Only systematic misrepresentations or lack of understanding of the relevant biology, (...)
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  15. Michael Weisberg (2010). New Approaches to the Division of Cognitive Labor. In P. D. Magnus & Jacob Busch (eds.), New Waves in Philosophy of Science. Palgrave Macmillan.
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  16. Michael Weisberg (2010). Target Directed Modeling. Modern Schoolman 87 (3-4):251-266.
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  17. Michael Weisberg & Paul Needham (2010). Matter, Structure, and Change: Aspects of the Philosophy of Chemistry. Philosophy Compass 5 (10):927-937.
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  18. 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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  19. 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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  20. Michael Weisberg & Ryan Muldoon (2009). Epistemic Landscapes and the Division of Cognitive Labor. Philosophy of Science 76 (2):225-252.
    Because of its complexity, contemporary scientific research is almost always tackled by groups of scientists, each of which works in a different part of a given research domain. We believe that understanding scientific progress thus requires understanding this division of cognitive labor. To this end, we present a novel agent-based model of scientific research in which scientists divide their labor to explore an unknown epistemic landscape. Scientists aim to climb uphill in this landscape, where elevation represents the significance of the (...)
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  21. Michael Weisberg (2008). Challenges to the Structural Conception of Chemical Bonding. Philosophy of Science 75 (5):932-946.
    The covalent bond, a difficult concept to define precisely, plays a central role in chemical predictions, interventions, and explanations. I investigate the structural conception of the covalent bond, which says that bonding is a directional, submolecular region of electron density, located between individual atomic centers and responsible for holding the atoms together. Several approaches to constructing molecular models are considered in order to determine which features of the structural conception of bonding, if any, are robust across these models. Key components (...)
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  22. Michael Weisberg & Kenneth Reisman (2008). The Robust Volterra Principle. Philosophy of Science 75 (1):106-131.
    Theorizing in ecology and evolution often proceeds via the construction of multiple idealized models. To determine whether a theoretical result actually depends on core features of the models and is not an artifact of simplifying assumptions, theorists have developed the technique of robustness analysis, the examination of multiple models looking for common predictions. A striking example of robustness analysis in ecology is the discovery of the Volterra Principle, which describes the effect of general biocides in predator-prey systems. This paper details (...)
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  23. Michael Weisberg (2007). Three Kinds of Idealization. Journal of Philosophy 104 (12):639-659.
    Philosophers of science increasingly recognize the importance of idealization: the intentional introduction of distortion into scientific theories. Yet this recognition has not yielded consensus about the nature of idealization. e literature of the past thirty years contains disparate characterizations and justifications, but little evidence of convergence towards a common position.
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  24. Michael Weisberg (2007). Who is a Modeler? British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 58 (2):207 - 233.
    Many standard philosophical accounts of scientific practice fail to distinguish between modeling and other types of theory construction. This failure is unfortunate because there are important contrasts among the goals, procedures, and representations employed by modelers and other kinds of theorists. We can see some of these differences intuitively when we reflect on the methods of theorists such as Vito Volterra and Linus Pauling on the one hand, and Charles Darwin and Dimitri Mendeleev on the other. Much of Volterra's and (...)
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  25. Michael Weisberg (2006). Forty Years of 'the Strategy': Levins on Model Building and Idealization. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 21 (5):623-645.
    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 (...)
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  26. Michael Weisberg (2006). Robustness Analysis. Philosophy of Science 73 (5):730-742.
    Modelers often rely on robustness analysis, the search for predictions common to several independent models. Robustness analysis has been characterized and championed by Richard Levins and William Wimsatt, who see it as central to modern theoretical practice. The practice has also been severely criticized by Steven Orzack and Elliott Sober, who claim that it a non-empirical form of confirmation, only effective under unusual circumstances. This paper addresses Orzack and Sober’s criticisms by giving a new account of robustness analysis and showing (...)
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  27. Michael Weisberg (2006). Richard Levins' Philosophy of Science. Biology and Philosophy 21 (5):603-605.
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  28. Michael Weisberg (2006). The Intelligent Design Controversy: Lessons From Psychology and Education. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 10 (2):56-57.
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  29. M. Weisberg (2005). In Mendel's Mirror: Philosophical Reflections on Biology. Philosophical Review 114 (3):419-423.
  30. Michael Weisberg (2004). Interpreting Aristotle on Mixture: Problems About Elemental Composition From Philoponus to Cooper. Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 35 (4):681–706.
    Aristotle’s On generation and corruption raises a vital question: how is mixture, or what we would now call chemical combination, possible? It also offers an outline of a solution to the problem and a set of criteria that a successful solution must meet. Understanding Aristotle’s solution and developing a viable peripatetic theory of chemical combination has been a source of controversy over the last two millennia. We describe seven criteria a peripatetic theory of mixture must satisfy: uniformity, recoverability, potentiality, equilibrium, (...)
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  31. Michael Weisberg (2004). Qualitative Theory and Chemical Explanation. Philosophy of Science 71 (5):1071-1081.
    Roald Hoffmann and other theorists claim that we ought to use highly idealized chemical models (“qualitative models”) in order to increase our understanding of chemical phenomena, even though other models are available which make more highly accurate predictions. I assess this norm by examining one of the tradeoffs faced by model builders and model users—the tradeoff between precision and generality. After arguing that this tradeoff obtains in many cases, I discuss how the existence of this tradeoff can help us defend (...)
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  32. Rega Wood & Michael Weisberg (2004). Interpreting Aristotle on Mixture: Problems About Elemental Composition From Philoponus to Cooper. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 35 (4):681-706.
  33. Mark Weisberg & Jacalyn Duffin (1995). Evoking the Moral Imagination: Using Stories to Teach Ethics and Professionalism to Nursing, Medical, and Law Students. [REVIEW] Journal of Medical Humanities 16 (4):247-263.
    Four years ago, as colleagues in our university's law and medical schools, we designed and began offering a course for law, medical, and nursing students, studying professionalism and professional ethics by reading and discussing current and earlier images of nurses, doctors, and lawyers in literature. We wanted to make professional ethics, professional culture, and professional education the objects of study rather than simply the unreflective consequences of exposure to professional language, culture, and training. We wanted to do it in an (...)
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