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  1.  37
    Explanatory Abstraction and the Goldilocks Problem: Interventionism Gets Things Just Right.Thomas Blanchard - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):633-663.
    Theories of explanation need to account for a puzzling feature of our explanatory practices: the fact that we prefer explanations that are relatively abstract but only moderately so. Contra Franklin-Hall ([2016]), I argue that the interventionist account of explanation provides a natural and elegant explanation of this fact. By striking the right balance between specificity and generality, moderately abstract explanations optimally subserve what interventionists regard as the goal of explanation, namely identifying possible interventions that would have changed the explanandum.
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  2.  4
    Signalling Under Uncertainty: Interpretative Alignment Without a Common Prior.Thomas Brochhagen - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):471-496.
    Communication involves a great deal of uncertainty. Prima facie, it is therefore surprising that biological communication systems—from cellular to human—exhibit a high degree of ambiguity and often leave its resolution to contextual cues. This puzzle deepens once we consider that contextual information may diverge between individuals. In the following we lay out a model of ambiguous communication in iterated interactions between subjectively rational agents lacking a common contextual prior. We argue ambiguity’s justification to lie in endowing interlocutors with means to (...)
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  3.  7
    Mathematical Explanation Beyond Explanatory Proof.William D’Alessandro - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):581-603.
    Much recent work on mathematical explanation has presupposed that the phenomenon involves explanatory proofs in an essential way. I argue that this view, ‘proof chauvinism’, is false. I then look in some detail at the explanation of the solvability of polynomial equations provided by Galois theory, which has often been thought to revolve around an explanatory proof. The article concludes with some general worries about the effects of chauvinism on the theory of mathematical explanation. 1Introduction 2Why I Am Not a (...)
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  4.  34
    The Real Problem with Perturbative Quantum Field Theory.James D. Fraser - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):391-413.
    The perturbative approach to quantum field theory has long been viewed with suspicion by philosophers of science. This article offers a diagnosis of its conceptual problems. Drawing on Norton’s discussion of the notion of approximation I argue that perturbative QFT ought to be understood as producing approximations without specifying an underlying QFT model. This analysis leads to a reassessment of common worries about perturbative QFT. What ends up being the key issue with the approach on this picture is not mathematical (...)
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  5.  9
    Generalism and the Metaphysics of Ontic Structural Realism.David Glick - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):751-772.
    Ontic structural realism claims that all there is to the world is structure. But how can this slogan be turned into a worked-out metaphysics? Here I consider one potential answer: a metaphysical framework known as ‘generalism’. According to the generalist, the most fundamental description of the world is not given in terms of individuals bearing properties, but rather, general facts about which states of affairs obtain. However, I contend that despite several apparent similarities between the positions, generalism is unable to (...)
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  6.  46
    Why Surplus Structure Is Not Superfluous.Nguyen James, J. Teh Nicholas & Wells Laura - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):665-695.
    The idea that gauge theory has ‘surplus’ structure poses a puzzle: in one much discussed sense, this structure is redundant; but on the other hand, it is also widely held to play an essential role in the theory. In this article, we employ category-theoretic tools to illuminate an aspect of this puzzle. We precisify what is meant by surplus structure by means of functorial comparisons with equivalence classes of gauge fields, and then show that such structure is essential for any (...)
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  7.  39
    Getting Serious About Shared Features.Donal Khosrowi - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):523-546.
    In Simulation and Similarity, Michael Weisberg offers a similarity-based account of the model–world relation, which is the relation in virtue of which successful models are successful. Weisberg’s main idea is that models are similar to targets in virtue of sharing features. An important concern about Weisberg’s account is that it remains silent on what it means for models and targets to share features, and consequently on how feature-sharing contributes to models’ epistemic success. I consider three potential ways of concretizing the (...)
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  8.  54
    Structuralism in the Idiom of Determination.Kerry McKenzie - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):497-522.
    Ontic structural realism is a thesis of fundamentality metaphysics: the thesis that structure, not objects, has fundamental status. Claimed as the metaphysic most befitting of modern physics, OSR first emerged as an entreaty to eliminate objects from the metaphysics of fundamental physics. Such elimination was urged by Steven French and James Ladyman on the grounds that only it could resolve the ‘underdetermination of metaphysics by physics’ that they claimed reduced any putative objectual commitment to a merely ‘ersatz’ form of realism. (...)
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  9.  6
    The Principal Principle Does Not Imply the Principle of Indifference.Richard Pettigrew - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):605-619.
    In a recent paper in this journal, James Hawthorne, Jürgen Landes, Christian Wallmann, and Jon Williamson argue that the principal principle entails the principle of indifference. In this article, I argue that it does not. Lewis’s version of the principal principle notoriously depends on a notion of admissibility, which Lewis uses to restrict its application. HLWW base their argument on certain intuitions concerning when one proposition is admissible for another: Conditions 1 and 2. There are two ways of reading their (...)
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  10.  23
    Asymmetry, Abstraction, and Autonomy: Justifying Coarse-Graining in Statistical Mechanics.Katie Robertson - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):547-579.
    While the fundamental laws of physics are time-reversal invariant, most macroscopic processes are irreversible. Given that the fundamental laws are taken to underpin all other processes, how can the fundamental time-symmetry be reconciled with the asymmetry manifest elsewhere? In statistical mechanics, progress can be made with this question. What I dub the ‘Zwanzig–Zeh–Wallace framework’ can be used to construct the irreversible equations of SM from the underlying microdynamics. Yet this framework uses coarse-graining, a procedure that has faced much criticism. I (...)
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  11.  43
    Constitutive Relevance in Interlevel Experiments.Maria Serban & Sune Holm - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):697-725.
    One reason for the popularity of Craver’s mutual manipulability account of constitutive relevance is that it seems to make good sense of the experimental practices and constitutive reasoning in the life sciences. Two recent papers propose a theoretical alternative to in light of several important conceptual objections. Their alternative approach, the no de-coupling account, conceives of constitution as a dependence relation that once postulated provides the best explanation of the impossibility of breaking the common cause coupling of a macro-level mechanism (...)
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  12.  61
    The Principal Principle Does Not Imply the Principle of Indifference, Because Conditioning on Biconditionals Is Counterintuitive.Michael G. Titelbaum & Casey Hart - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):621-632.
    Roger White argued for a principle of indifference. Hart and Titelbaum showed that White’s argument relied on an intuition about conditioning on biconditionals that, while widely shared, is incorrect. Hawthorne, Landes, Wallmann, and Williamson argue for a principle of indifference. Remarkably, their argument relies on the same faulty intuition. We explain their intuition, explain why it’s faulty, and show how it generates their principle of indifference. 1Introduction 2El Caminos and Indifference 2.1Overview 2.2Fins and antennas 2.3HLWW in the example 2.4The restrictiveness (...)
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  13.  21
    The Complementarity of Psychometrics and the Representational Theory of Measurement.Elina Vessonen - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):415-442.
    Psychometrics and the representational theory of measurement are widely used in social scientific measurement. They are currently pursued largely in isolation from one another. I argue that despite their separation in practice, RTM and psychometrics are complementary approaches, because they can contribute in complementary ways to the establishment of what I argue is a crucial measurement property, namely, representational interpretability. Because RTM and psychometrics are complementary in the establishment of representational interpretability, the current separation of measurement approaches is unfounded. 1Introduction2Two (...)
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  14. The Sense of Time.Gerardo Viera - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (2):443-469.
    It’s often claimed in the philosophical and scientific literature on temporal representation that there is no such thing as a genuine sensory system for time. In this paper, I argue for the opposite—many animals, including all mammals, possess a genuine sensory system for time based in the circadian system. In arguing for this conclusion, I develop a semantics and meta-semantics for explaining how the endogenous rhythms of the circadian system provide organisms with a direct information link to the temporal structure (...)
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  15.  38
    Musing on Means: Fitness, Expectation, and the Principles of Natural Selection.Bengt Autzen - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (1):373-389.
    How to measure fitness in the theory of natural selection? A fitness measure that has been proposed in both the biological and the philosophical literature is the expected relative reproductive success. The aim of this article is to examine the relationship between expected relative reproductive success and future actual evolutionary success. Doing so will not only clarify the use of expected relative reproductive success as a fitness measure but also shed light on the role of fitness in the theory of (...)
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  16.  87
    Kin Selection, Group Selection, and the Varieties of Population Structure.Jonathan Birch - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (1):259-286.
    Various results show the ‘formal equivalence’ of kin and group selectionist methodologies, but this does not preclude there being a real and useful distinction between kin and group selection processes. I distinguish individual- and population-centred approaches to drawing such a distinction, and I proceed to develop the latter. On the account I advance, the differences between kin and group selection are differences of degree in the structural properties of populations. A spatial metaphor provides a useful framework for thinking about these (...)
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  17.  34
    Inclusive Fitness and the Problem of Honest Communication.Justin P. Bruner & Hannah Rubin - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (1):115-137.
    Inclusive fitness has been under intense scrutiny in recent years, with many critics claiming the framework leads to incorrect predictions. We consider one particularly influential heuristic for estimating inclusive fitness in the context of the very case that motivated reliance on it to begin with: the Sir Philip Sidney signalling game played with relatives. Using a neighbour-modulated fitness model, we show when and why this heuristic is problematic. We argue that reliance on the heuristic rests on a misunderstanding of what (...)
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  18.  17
    Signals That Make a Difference.Brett Calcott, Arnaud Pocheville & Paul Griffiths - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (1):233-258.
    Recent work by Brian Skyrms offers a very general way to think about how information flows and evolves in biological networks—from the way monkeys in a troop communicate to the way cells in a body coordinate their actions. A central feature of his account is a way to formally measure the quantity of information contained in the signals in these networks. In this article, we argue there is a tension between how Skyrms talks of signalling networks and his formal measure (...)
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  19. Are More Details Better? On the Norms of Completeness for Mechanistic Explanations.Carl F. Craver & David M. Kaplan - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (1):287-319.
    Completeness is an important but misunderstood norm of explanation. It has recently been argued that mechanistic accounts of scientific explanation are committed to the thesis that models are complete only if they describe everything about a mechanism and, as a corollary, that incomplete models are always improved by adding more details. If so, mechanistic accounts are at odds with the obvious and important role of abstraction in scientific modelling. We respond to this characterization of the mechanist’s views about abstraction and (...)
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  20.  26
    The Reality of Jean Perrin's Atoms and Molecules.Robert Hudson - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (1):33-58.
    Jean Perrin’s proof in the early-twentieth century of the reality of atoms and molecules is often taken as an exemplary form of robustness reasoning, where an empirical result receives validation if it is generated using multiple experimental approaches. In this article, I describe in detail Perrin’s style of reasoning, and locate both qualitative and quantitative forms of argumentation. Particularly, I argue that his quantitative style of reasoning has mistakenly been viewed as a form of robustness reasoning, whereas I believe it (...)
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  21.  35
    Open-Minded Orthodox Bayesianism by Epsilon-Conditionalization.Eric Raidl - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (1):139-176.
    Orthodox Bayesianism endorses revising by conditionalization. This paper investigates the zero-raising problem, or equivalently the certainty-dropping problem of orthodox Bayesianism: previously neglected possibilities remain neglected, although the new evidence might suggest otherwise. Yet, one may want to model open-minded agents, that is, agents capable of raising previously neglected possibilities. Different reasons can be given for open-mindedness, one of which is fallibilism. The paper proposes a family of open-minded propositional revisions depending on a parameter ϵ. The basic idea is this: first (...)
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  22.  32
    Securing the Empirical Value of Measurement Results.Kent W. Staley - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (1):87-113.
    Reports of quantitative experimental results often distinguish between the statistical uncertainty and the systematic uncertainty that characterize measurement outcomes. This article discusses the practice of estimating systematic uncertainty in high-energy physics. The estimation of systematic uncertainty in HEP should be understood as a minimal form of quantitative robustness analysis. The secure evidence framework is used to explain the epistemic significance of robustness analysis. However, the empirical value of a measurement result depends crucially not only on the resulting systematic uncertainty estimate, (...)
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  23.  12
    Regularity Relationalism and the Constructivist Project.Syman Stevens - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (1):353-372.
    It has recently been argued that Harvey Brown and Oliver Pooley’s ‘dynamical approach’ to special relativity should be understood as what might be called an ontologically and ideologically relationalist approach to Minkowski geometry, according to which Minkowski geometrical structure supervenes upon the symmetries of the best-systems dynamical laws for a material world with primitive topological or differentiable structure. Fleshing out the details of some such primitive structure, and a conception of laws according to which Minkowski geometry could so supervene, has (...)
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  24.  52
    Fundamental and Emergent Geometry in Newtonian Physics.David Wallace - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (1):1-32.
    Using as a starting point recent and apparently incompatible conclusions by Saunders and Knox, I revisit the question of the correct spacetime setting for Newtonian physics. I argue that understood correctly, these two versions of Newtonian physics make the same claims both about the background geometry required to define the theory, and about the inertial structure of the theory. In doing so I illustrate and explore in detail the view—espoused by Knox, and also by Brown —that inertial structure is defined (...)
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  25.  13
    The Kalām Cosmological Argument Meets the Mentaculus.Dan Linford - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axaa005.
    According to the orthodox interpretation of bounce cosmologies, the universe was born from an entropy-reducing phase in a previous universe. To defend the thesis that the whole of physical reality was caused to exist a finite time ago, Craig and Sinclair have argued the low-entropy interface between universes should instead be understood as the beginning of two universes. Here, I present Craig and Sinclair with a dilemma. On the one hand, if the direction of time is reducible, as friends of (...)
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