Forty years of 'the strategy': Levins on model building and idealization [Book Review]

Biology and Philosophy 21 (5):623-645 (2006)

Authors
Michael Weisberg
University of Pennsylvania
Abstract
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 concerned, at its core, with justifying the use of multiple, idealized models in population biology.
Keywords Richard Levins  Tradeoffs  Models  Model building  Idealization  Robustness  Population biology  Theoretical ecology  Complex systems
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Reprint years 2007
DOI 10.1007/s10539-006-9051-9
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References found in this work BETA

The Strategy of Model-Based Science.Peter Godfrey-Smith - 2006 - Biology and Philosophy 21 (5):725-740.
Who is a Modeler?M. Weisberg - 2007 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 58 (2):207-233.
Explanatory Unification.Philip Kitcher - 1981 - Philosophy of Science 48 (4):507-531.
Explanation and Scientific Understanding.Michael Friedman - 1974 - Journal of Philosophy 71 (1):5-19.

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Citations of this work BETA

Economic Modelling as Robustness Analysis.J. Kuorikoski, A. Lehtinen & C. Marchionni - 2010 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (3):541-567.
Understanding with Theoretical Models.Petri Ylikoski & N. Emrah Aydinonat - 2014 - Journal of Economic Methodology 21 (1):19-36.
Four Pillars of Statisticalism.Denis M. Walsh, André Ariew & Mohan Matthen - 2017 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 9 (1).

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