Synthese (1) (2018)

Authors
Charles Rathkopf
Jülich Research Center
Abstract
In this article, network science is discussed from a methodological perspective, and two central theses are defended. The first is that network science exploits the very properties that make a system complex. Rather than using idealization techniques to strip those properties away, as is standard practice in other areas of science, network science brings them to the fore, and uses them to furnish new forms of explanation. The second thesis is that network representations are particularly helpful in explaining the properties of non-decomposable systems. Where part-whole decomposition is not possible, network science provides a much-needed alternative method of compressing information about the behavior of complex systems, and does so without succumbing to problems associated with combinatorial explosion. The article concludes with a comparison between the uses of network representation analyzed in the main discussion, and an entirely distinct use of network representation that has recently been discussed in connection with mechanistic modeling.
Keywords Network  Representation  Explanation  Mechanism  Decomposition  Idealization
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Reprint years 2015, 2018
DOI 10.1007/s11229-015-0726-0
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References found in this work BETA

Making Things Happen. A Theory of Causal Explanation.Michael Strevens - 2007 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (1):233-249.
The Architecture of Complexity.Herbert A. Simon - 1962 - Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 106.
Mathematics and Scientific Representation.Christopher Pincock - 2012 - Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press USA.

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Citations of this work BETA

General Theory of Topological Explanations and Explanatory Asymmetry.Daniel Kostic - 2020 - Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 375 (1796):1-8.
Getting Over Atomism: Functional Decomposition in Complex Neural Systems.Daniel C. Burnston - 2021 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 72 (3):743-772.

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