Time Scales and Levels of Organization

Erkenntnis 82 (4):795-818 (2017)
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Abstract

The concept of levels of organization, despite its widespread scientific currency, has recently been criticized by a number of philosophers of science. This paper diagnoses the main source of problems facing theories of levels. On this basis, the problems with the usual criteria for distinguishing levels are evaluated: compositional relations, organizational types, and spatial scales. Drawing on some work on hierarchies in ecology, I argue in favor of an alternative conception of levels defined by the criterion of rates or time scales of processes.

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