Biology and Philosophy 21 (5):667-702 (2006)

Authors
William C. Wimsatt
University of Minnesota
Abstract
Richard Levins’ distinction between aggregate, composed and evolved systems acquires new significance as we recognize the importance of mechanistic explanation. Criteria for aggregativity provide limiting cases for absence of organization, so through their failure, can provide rich detectors for organizational properties. I explore the use of failures of aggregativity for the analysis of mechanistic systems in diverse contexts. Aggregativity appears theoretically desireable, but we are easily fooled. It may be exaggerated through approximation, conditions of derivation, and extrapolating from some conditions of decomposition illegtimately to others. Evolved systems particularly may require analyses under alternative complementary decompositions. Exploring these conditions helps us to better understand the strengths and limits of reductionistic methods.
Keywords Aggregativity  Heuristics  Functional localization fallacies  Reductionism  Mechanism  Complexity  Intersubstitutability  Nothing-but-ism  Decomposability  Invariance  Richard Levins
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Reprint years 2007
DOI 10.1007/s10539-006-9059-1
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References found in this work BETA

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford University Press.

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