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Biological Complexity and Integrative Pluralism

Cambridge University Press (2003)

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  1. Explanatory Power of Extended Cognition.Samuli Pöyhönen - 2014 - Philosophical Psychology 27 (5):735-759.
    I argue that examining the explanatory power of the hypothesis of extended cognition (HEC) offers a fruitful approach to the problem of cognitive system demarcation. Although in the discussions on HEC it has become common to refer to considerations of explanatory power as a means for assessing the plausibility of the extended cognition approach, to date no satisfying account of explanatory power has been presented in the literature. I suggest that the currently most prominent theory of explanation in the special (...)
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  • Gould’s Replay Revisited.Derek D. Turner - 2011 - Biology and Philosophy 26 (1):65-79.
    This paper develops a critical response to John Beatty’s recent (2006) engagement with Stephen Jay Gould’s claim that evolutionary history is contingent. Beatty identifies two senses of contingency in Gould’s work: an unpredictability sense and a causal dependence sense. He denies that Gould associates contingency with stochastic phenomena, such as drift. In reply to Beatty, this paper develops two main claims. The first is an interpretive claim: Gould really thinks of contingency has having to do with stochastic effects at the (...)
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  • Beyond Reduction and Pluralism: Toward an Epistemology of Explanatory Integration in Biology.Ingo Brigandt - 2010 - Erkenntnis 73 (3):295-311.
    The paper works towards an account of explanatory integration in biology, using as a case study explanations of the evolutionary origin of novelties-a problem requiring the integration of several biological fields and approaches. In contrast to the idea that fields studying lower level phenomena are always more fundamental in explanations, I argue that the particular combination of disciplines and theoretical approaches needed to address a complex biological problem and which among them is explanatorily more fundamental varies with the problem pursued. (...)
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  • Explanatory Pluralism in Cognitive Science.Rick Dale, Eric Dietrich & Anthony Chemero - 2009 - Cognitive Science 33 (2):739-742.
    This brief commentary has three goals. The first is to argue that ‘‘framework debate’’ in cognitive science is unresolvable. The idea that one theory or framework can singly account for the vast complexity and variety of cognitive processes seems unlikely if not impossible. The second goal is a consequence of this: We should consider how the various theories on offer work together in diverse contexts of investigation. A final goal is to supply a brief review for readers who are compelled (...)
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  • Hunting Causes and Using Them: Is There No Bridge From Here to There?Nancy Cartwright & Sophia Efstathiou - 2011 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 25 (3):223 - 241.
    Causation is in trouble?at least as it is pictured in current theories in philosophy and in economics as well, where causation is also once again in fashion. In both disciplines the accounts of causality on offer are either modelled too closely on one or another favoured method for hunting causes or on assumptions about the uses to which causal knowledge can be put?generally for predicting the results of our efforts to change the world. The first kind of account supplies no (...)
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  • What is a Mechanism? Thinking About Mechanisms Across the Sciences.Phyllis Illari & Jon Williamson - 2012 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (1):119-135.
    After a decade of intense debate about mechanisms, there is still no consensus characterization. In this paper we argue for a characterization that applies widely to mechanisms across the sciences. We examine and defend our disagreements with the major current contenders for characterizations of mechanisms. Ultimately, we indicate that the major contenders can all sign up to our characterization.
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  • Pluralism, Social Action and the Causal Space of Human Behavior.James Tabery, Alex Preda & Helen Longino - 2014 - Metascience 23 (3):443-459.
    James Tabery Helen Longino’s Studying Human Behavior is an overdue effort at a nonpartisan evaluation of the many scientific disciplines that study the nature and nurture of human behavior, arguing for the acceptance of the strengths and weaknesses of all approaches. After years of conflict, Longino makes the pluralist case for peaceful coexistence. Her analysis of the approaches raises the following question: how are we to understand the pluralistic relationship among the peacefully coexisting approaches? Longino is ironically rather unpluralistic about (...)
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  • Explanation in Psychiatry.Dominic Murphy - 2010 - Philosophy Compass 5 (7):602-610.
    Philosophy of psychiatry has boomed in the last few years. We are now seeing a growing literature on the nature of psychiatric explanation, including work that makes contact with longstanding disputes in the philosophy of science as well as more specific work on mental disorders. This paper looks at some recent work on both representing and explaining mental illness. An emerging picture sees explanation of mental disorder as first constructing causal-statistical networks that represent disease pathways as they unfold in time, (...)
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  • Pluralistic Physicalism and the Causal Exclusion Argument.Markus Eronen - 2012 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (2):219-232.
    There is a growing consensus among philosophers of science that scientific endeavors of understanding the human mind or the brain exhibit explanatory pluralism. Relatedly, several philosophers have in recent years defended an interventionist approach to causation that leads to a kind of causal pluralism. In this paper, I explore the consequences of these recent developments in philosophy of science for some of the central debates in philosophy of mind. First, I argue that if we adopt explanatory pluralism and the interventionist (...)
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  • Function and Organization: Comparing the Mechanisms of Protein Synthesis and Natural Selection.Phyllis McKay Illari & Jon Williamson - 2010 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 41 (3):279-291.
    In this paper, we compare the mechanisms of protein synthesis and natural selection. We identify three core elements of mechanistic explanation: functional individuation, hierarchical nestedness or decomposition, and organization. These are now well understood elements of mechanistic explanation in fields such as protein synthesis, and widely accepted in the mechanisms literature. But Skipper and Millstein have argued that natural selection is neither decomposable nor organized. This would mean that much of the current mechanisms literature does not apply to the mechanism (...)
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  • The Philosophy of Interdisciplinarity: Sustainability Science and Problem-Feeding.Henrik Thorén & Johannes Persson - 2013 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 44 (2):337-355.
    Traditionally, interdisciplinarity has been taken to require conceptual or theoretical integration. However, in the emerging field of sustainability science this kind of integration is often lacking. Indeed sometimes it is regarded as an obstacle to interdisciplinarity. Drawing on examples from sustainability science, we show that problem-feeding, i.e. the transfer of problems, is a common and fruitful-looking way of connecting disparate disciplines and establishing interdisciplinarity. We identify two species of problem-feeding: unilateral and bilateral. Which of these is at issue depends on (...)
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  • Reducing the Dauer Larva: Molecular Models of Biological Phenomena in Caenorhabditis Elegans Research.Michal Arciszewski - 2013 - Synthese 190 (18):4155-4179.
    One important aspect of biological explanation is detailed causal modeling of particular phenomena in limited experimental background conditions. Recognising this allows one to appreciate that a sufficient condition for a reduction in biology is a molecular model of (1) only the demonstrated causal parameters of a biological model and (2) only within a replicable experimental background. These identities—which are ubiquitous in biology and form the basis of ruthless reductions (Bickle, Philosophy and neuroscience: a ruthlessly reductive account, 2003)—are criticised as merely (...)
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  • Through a Glass, Darkly. [REVIEW]Inmaculada de Melo-Martín - 2012 - Metascience 21 (2):367-370.
    Through a glass, darkly Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9633-2 Authors Inmaculada de Melo-Martín, Division of Medical Ethics, Department of Public Health, Weill Cornell Medical College—Cornell University, 402 E. 67th Street, New York, NY 10065, USA Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
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  • After Fifty Years, Why Are Protein X-Ray Crystallographers Still in Business?Sandra D. Mitchell & Angela M. Gronenborn - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axv051.
    It has long been held that the structure of a protein is determined solely by the interactions of the atoms in the sequence of amino acids of which it is composed, and thus the stable, biologically functional conformation should be predictable by ab initio or de novo methods. However, except for small proteins, ab initio predictions have not been successful. We explain why this is the case and argue that the relationship among the different methods, models, and representations of protein (...)
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  • The Multiplicity of Experimental Protocols: A Challenge to Reductionist and Non-Reductionist Models of the Unity of Neuroscience.Jacqueline Anne Sullivan - 2009 - Synthese 167 (3):511-539.
    Descriptive accounts of the nature of explanation in neuroscience and the global goals of such explanation have recently proliferated in the philosophy of neuroscience and with them new understandings of the experimental practices of neuroscientists have emerged. In this paper, I consider two models of such practices; one that takes them to be reductive; another that takes them to be integrative. I investigate those areas of the neuroscience of learning and memory from which the examples used to substantiate these models (...)
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  • Causality in Macroeconometrics: Some Considerations About Reductionism and Realism.Alessio Moneta - 2005 - Journal of Economic Methodology 12 (3):433-453.
    This paper investigates the varieties of reductionism and realism about causal relations in macroeconometrics. There are two issues, which are kept distinct in the analysis but which are interrelated in the development of econometrics. The first one is the question of the reducibility of causal relations to regularities, measured in statistics by correlations. The second one is the question of the reducibility of causes among macroeconomic aggregates to microeconomic behaviour. It is argued that there is a continuum of possible positions (...)
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  • Emergence: Logical, Functional and Dynamical. [REVIEW]Sandra D. Mitchell - 2012 - Synthese 185 (2):171-186.
    Philosophical accounts of emergence have been explicated in terms of logical relationships between statements (derivation) or static properties (function and realization). Jaegwon Kim is a modern proponent. A property is emergent if it is not explainable by (or reducible to) the properties of lower level components. This approach, I will argue, is unable to make sense of the kinds of emergence that are widespread in scientific explanations of complex systems. The standard philosophical notion of emergence posits the wrong dichotomies, confuses (...)
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  • Facing Up to Complexity: Implications for Our Social Experiments.Ronnie Hawkins - 2016 - Science and Engineering Ethics 22 (3):775-814.
    Biological systems are highly complex, and for this reason there is a considerable degree of uncertainty as to the consequences of making significant interventions into their workings. Since a number of new technologies are already impinging on living systems, including our bodies, many of us have become participants in large-scale “social experiments”. I will discuss biological complexity and its relevance to the technologies that brought us BSE/vCJD and the controversy over GM foods. Then I will consider some of the complexities (...)
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  • Access Denied to Zombies.Gualtiero Piccinini - 2017 - Topoi 36 (1):81-93.
    I argue that metaphysicians of mind have not done justice to the notion of accessibility between possible worlds. Once accessibility is given its due, physicalism must be reformulated and conceivability arguments must be reevaluated. To reach these conclusions, I explore a novel way of assessing the zombie conceivability argument. I accept that zombies are possible and ask whether that possibility is accessible from our world in the sense of ‘accessible’ used in possible world semantics. It turns out that the question (...)
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  • Pluralism in Evolutionary Controversies: Styles and Averaging Strategies in Hierarchical Selection Theories.Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther, Michael J. Wade & Christopher C. Dimond - 2013 - Biology and Philosophy 28 (6):957-979.
    Two controversies exist regarding the appropriate characterization of hierarchical and adaptive evolution in natural populations. In biology, there is the Wright-Fisher controversy over the relative roles of random genetic drift, natural selection, population structure, and interdemic selection in adaptive evolution begun by Sewall Wright and Ronald Aylmer Fisher. There is also the Units of Selection debate, spanning both the biological and the philosophical literature and including the impassioned group-selection debate. Why do these two discourses exist separately, and interact relatively little? (...)
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  • Towards a Processual Microbial Ontology.Eric Bapteste & John Dupré - 2013 - Biology and Philosophy 28 (2):379-404.
    Standard microbial evolutionary ontology is organized according to a nested hierarchy of entities at various levels of biological organization. It typically detects and defines these entities in relation to the most stable aspects of evolutionary processes, by identifying lineages evolving by a process of vertical inheritance from an ancestral entity. However, recent advances in microbiology indicate that such an ontology has important limitations. The various dynamics detected within microbiological systems reveal that a focus on the most stable entities (or features (...)
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  • Marsupial Lions and Methodological Omnivory: Function, Success and Reconstruction in Paleobiology.Adrian Currie - 2015 - Biology and Philosophy 30 (2):187-209.
    Historical scientists frequently face incomplete data, and lack direct experimental access to their targets. This has led some philosophers and scientists to be pessimistic about the epistemic potential of the historical sciences. And yet, historical science often produces plausible, sophisticated hypotheses. I explain this capacity to generate knowledge in the face of apparent evidential scarcity by examining recent work on Thylacoleo carnifex, the ‘marsupial lion’. Here, we see two important methodological features. First, historical scientists are methodological omnivores, that is, they (...)
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  • G×E Interaction and Pluralism in the Postgenomic Era.Laurence Perbal - 2013 - Biological Theory 7 (3):266-274.
    Genetics is in a postgenomic era, and this article illustrates this epistemological evolution using the debate between developmental criticism and traditional biometric genetics about gene × environment interaction. Quantitative geneticists are blamed for failing to respect the complexity of development; as a response, they claim a defensive position, called isolationist pluralism, which supports the idea that studying development is not their problem. But postgenomics seems to have accepted and integrated some developmental criticisms and the isolationist perspective has been challenged during (...)
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  • Neo‐Functional Analysis: Phylogenetical Restrictions on Causal Role Functions.Predrag Sustar - 2007 - Philosophy of Science 74 (5):601-615.
    The most recent resurgence of philosophical attention to the so-called ‘functional talk' in the sciences can be summarized in terms of the following questions: (Q1) What kind of restrictions, and in particular, what kind of evolutionary restrictions as well as to what extent, is involved in functional ascriptions? (Q2) How can we account for the explanatory import of function-ascribing statements? This paper addresses these questions through a modified version of Cummins' functional analysis. The modification in question is concerned with phylogenetical (...)
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  • Neo‐Functional Analysis: Phylogenetical Restrictions on Causal Role Functions.Predrag Sustar - 2007 - Philosophy of Science 74 (5):601-615.
    The most recent resurgence of philosophical attention to the so-called ‘functional talk’ in the sciences can be summarized in terms of the following questions: (Q1) What kind of restrictions, and in particular, what kind of evolutionary restrictions as well as to what extent, are involved in functional ascriptions? (Q2) How can we account for the explanatory import of function-ascribing statements? This paper addresses these questions on the basis of a modified version of Cummins’ functional analysis. The modification in question is (...)
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  • Grounding the Big Picture.Patrick Forber - 2005 - Biology and Philosophy 20 (4):913-923.
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  • Laws of Biology, Laws of Nature: Problems and (Dis)Solutions.Andrew Hamilton - 2007 - Philosophy Compass 2 (3):592–610.
    This article serves as an introduction to the laws-of-biology debate. After introducing the main issues in an introductory section, arguments for and against laws of biology are canvassed in Section 2. In Section 3, the debate is placed in wider epistemological context by engaging a group of scholars who have shifted the focus away from the question of whether there are laws of biology and toward offering good accounts of explanation(s) in the biological sciences. Section 4 introduces two relatively new (...)
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  • Review of Sandra D. Mitchell: Unsimple Truths: Science, Complexity, and Policy. [REVIEW]David Crawford - 2011 - Biology and Philosophy 26 (2):305-313.
    In Unsimple truths, Sandra D. Mitchell examines the historical context of current scientific practices and elaborates the challenges complexity has since posed to status quo science and policymaking. Mitchell criticizes models of science inspired by Newtonian physics and argues for a pragmatistic, anti-universalist approach to science. In this review, I focus on what I find to be the most important point of the book, Mitchell’s argument for the conceptual independence of compositional materialism and descriptive fundamentalism. Along the way, I provide (...)
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  • The Evolution of Punishment.Hisashi Nakao & Edouard Machery - 2012 - Biology and Philosophy 27 (6):833-850.
    Many researchers have assumed that punishment evolved as a behavior-modification strategy, i.e. that it evolved because of the benefits resulting from the punishees modifying their behavior. In this article, however, we describe two alternative mechanisms for the evolution of punishment: punishment as a loss-cutting strategy (punishers avoid further exploitation by punishees) and punishment as a cost-imposing strategy (punishers impair the violator’s capacity to harm the punisher or its genetic relatives). Through reviewing many examples of punishment in a wide range of (...)
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  • Difference Mechanisms: Explaining Variation with Mechanisms.James Tabery - 2009 - Biology and Philosophy 24 (5):645-664.
    Philosophers of science have developed an account of causal-mechanical explanation that captures regularity, but this account neglects variation. In this article I amend the philosophy of mechanisms to capture variation. The task is to explicate the relationship between regular causal mechanisms responsible for individual development and causes of variation responsible for variation in populations. As it turns out, disputes over this relationship have rested at the heart of the nature–nurture debate. Thus, an explication of the relationship between regular causal mechanisms (...)
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  • Access Denied to Zombies.Gualtiero Piccinini - 2008 - Unpublished:1-13.
    According to the zombie conceivability argument, phenomenal zombies are conceivable, and hence possible, and hence physicalism is false. Critics of the conceivability argument have responded by denying either that zombies are conceivable or that they are possible. Much of the controversy hinges on how to establish and understand what is conceivable, what is possible, and the link between the two—matters that are at least as obscure and controversial as whether consciousness is physical. Because of this, the debate over physicalism is (...)
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  • Sober and Elgin on Laws of Biology: A Critique. [REVIEW]Lane DesAutels - 2010 - Biology and Philosophy 25 (2):249-256.
    In this short discussion note, I discuss whether any of the generalizations made in biology should be construed as laws. Specifically, I examine a strategy offered by Elliot Sober ( 1997 ) and supported by Mehmet Elgin ( 2006 ) to reformulate certain biological generalizations so as to eliminate their contingency, thereby allowing them to count as laws. I argue that this strategy entails a conception of laws that is unacceptable on two counts: (1) Sober and Elgin’s approach allows the (...)
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  • There May Be Strict Empirical Laws in Biology, After All.Mehmet Elgin - 2006 - Biology and Philosophy 21 (1):119-134.
    This paper consists of four parts. Part 1 is an introduction. Part 2 evaluates arguments for the claim that there are no strict empirical laws in biology. I argue that there are two types of arguments for this claim and they are as follows: (1) Biological properties are multiply realized and they require complex processes. For this reason, it is almost impossible to formulate strict empirical laws in biology. (2) Generalizations in biology hold contingently but laws go beyond describing contingencies, (...)
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  • Laws of Biological Design: A Reply to John Beatty.Gregory J. Morgan - 2010 - Biology and Philosophy 25 (3):379-389.
    In this paper, I argue against John Beatty’s position in his paper “The Evolutionary Contingency Thesis” by counterexample. Beatty argues that there are no distinctly biological laws because the outcomes of the evolutionary processes are contingent. I argue that the heart of the Caspar–Klug theory of virus structure—that spherical virus capsids consist of 60T subunits (where T = k 2 + hk + h 2 and h and k are integers)—is a distinctly biological law even if the existence of spherical (...)
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