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Angela Potochnik
University of Cincinnati
  1. Eight Other Questions About Explanation.Angela Potochnik - forthcoming - In Alexander Reutlinger & Juha Saatsi (eds.), Explanation Beyond Causation: Philosophical Perspectives on Non-Causal Explanations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    The tremendous philosophical focus on how to characterize explanatory metaphysical dependence has eclipsed a number of other unresolved issued about scientific explanation. The purpose of this paper is taxonomical. I will outline a number of other questions about the nature of explanation and its role in science—eight, to be precise—and argue that each is independent. All of these topics have received some philosophical attention, but none nearly so much as it deserves. Furthermore, existing views on these topics have been obscured (...)
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  2. Explanatory Independence and Epistemic Interdependence: A Case Study of the Optimality Approach.Angela Potochnik - 2010 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (1):213-233.
    The value of optimality modeling has long been a source of contention amongst population biologists. Here I present a view of the optimality approach as at once playing a crucial explanatory role and yet also depending on external sources of confirmation. Optimality models are not alone in facing this tension between their explanatory value and their dependence on other approaches; I suspect that the scenario is quite common in science. This investigation of the optimality approach thus serves as a case (...)
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    The Diverse Aims of Science.Angela Potochnik - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 53:71-80.
    There is increasing attention to the centrality of idealization in science. One common view is that models and other idealized representations are important to science, but that they fall short in one or more ways. On this view, there must be an intermediary step between idealized representation and the traditional aims of science, including truth, explanation, and prediction. Here I develop an alternative interpretation of the relationship between idealized representation and the aims of science. In my view, continuing, widespread idealization (...)
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  4. The Limitations of Hierarchical Organization.Angela Potochnik & Brian McGill - 2012 - Philosophy of Science 79 (1):120-140.
    The concept of hierarchical organization is commonplace in science. Subatomic particles compose atoms, which compose molecules; cells compose tissues, which compose organs, which compose organisms; etc. Hierarchical organization is particularly prominent in ecology, a field of research explicitly arranged around levels of ecological organization. The concept of levels of organization is also central to a variety of debates in philosophy of science. Yet many difficulties plague the concept of discrete hierarchical levels. In this paper, we show how these difficulties undermine (...)
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  5. Levels of Explanation Reconceived.Angela Potochnik - 2010 - Philosophy of Science 77 (1):59-72.
    A common argument against explanatory reductionism is that higher‐level explanations are sometimes or always preferable because they are more general than reductive explanations. Here I challenge two basic assumptions that are needed for that argument to succeed. It cannot be assumed that higher‐level explanations are more general than their lower‐level alternatives or that higher‐level explanations are general in the right way to be explanatory. I suggest a novel form of pluralism regarding levels of explanation, according to which explanations at different (...)
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  6. Optimality Modeling and Explanatory Generality.Angela Potochnik - 2007 - Philosophy of Science 74 (5):680-691.
    The optimality approach to modeling natural selection has been criticized by many biologists and philosophers of biology. For instance, Lewontin (1979) argues that the optimality approach is a shortcut that will be replaced by models incorporating genetic information, if and when such models become available. In contrast, I think that optimality models have a permanent role in evolutionary study. I base my argument for this claim on what I think it takes to best explain an event. In certain contexts, optimality (...)
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  7. Causal Patterns and Adequate Explanations.Angela Potochnik - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (5):1163-1182.
    Causal accounts of scientific explanation are currently broadly accepted (though not universally so). My first task in this paper is to show that, even for a causal approach to explanation, significant features of explanatory practice are not determined by settling how causal facts bear on the phenomenon to be explained. I then develop a broadly causal approach to explanation that accounts for the additional features that I argue an explanation should have. This approach to explanation makes sense of several aspects (...)
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  8. Optimality Modeling in a Suboptimal World.Angela Potochnik - 2009 - Biology and Philosophy 24 (2):183-197.
    The fate of optimality modeling is typically linked to that of adaptationism: the two are thought to stand or fall together (Gould and Lewontin, Proc Relig Soc Lond 205:581–598, 1979; Orzack and Sober, Am Nat 143(3):361–380, 1994). I argue here that this is mistaken. The debate over adaptationism has tended to focus on one particular use of optimality models, which I refer to here as their strong use. The strong use of an optimality model involves the claim that selection is (...)
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  9. A Neurathian Conception of the Unity of Science.Angela Potochnik - 2011 - Erkenntnis 74 (3):305-319.
    An historically important conception of the unity of science is explanatory reductionism, according to which the unity of science is achieved by explaining all laws of science in terms of their connection to microphysical law. There is, however, a separate tradition that advocates the unity of science. According to that tradition, the unity of science consists of the coordination of diverse fields of science, none of which is taken to have privileged epistemic status. This alternate conception has roots in Otto (...)
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  10. Explanation and Understanding.Angela Potochnik - 2011 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 1 (1):29-38.
    Michael Strevens offers an account of causal explanation according to which explanatory practice is shaped by counterbalanced commitments to representing causal influence and abstracting away from overly specific details. In this paper, I challenge a key feature of that account. I argue that what Strevens calls explanatory frameworks figure prominently in explanatory practice because they actually improve explanations. This suggestion is simple but has far-reaching implications. It affects the status of explanations that cite multiply realizable properties; changes the explanatory role (...)
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  11.  34
    Idealization and the Aims of Science.Angela Potochnik - 2017 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
    Science is the study of our world, as it is in its messy reality. Nonetheless, science requires idealization to function—if we are to attempt to understand the world, we have to find ways to reduce its complexity. Idealization and the Aims of Science shows just how crucial idealization is to science and why it matters. Beginning with the acknowledgment of our status as limited human agents trying to make sense of an exceedingly complex world, Angela Potochnik moves on to explain (...)
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  12. Sex and Sensibility: The Role of Social Selection.Erika Milam, Roberta L. Millstein, Angela Potochnik & Joan Roughgarden - 2011 - Metascience 20 (2):253-277.
    Sex and sensibility: The role of social selection Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9464-6 Authors Erika L. Milam, Department of History, University of Maryland, 2115 Francis Scott Key Hall, College Park, MD 20742, USA Roberta L. Millstein, Department of Philosophy, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA Angela Potochnik, Department of Philosophy, University of Cincinnati, P.O. Box 210374, Cincinnati, OH 45221, USA Joan E. Roughgarden, Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-5020, USA Journal Metascience Online (...)
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  13. Toward Philosophy of Science's Social Engagement.Francis Cartieri & Angela Potochnik - 2013 - Erkenntnis (S5):1-16.
    In recent years, philosophy of science has witnessed a significant increase in attention directed toward the field’s social relevance. This is demonstrated by the formation of societies with related agendas, the organization of research symposia, and an uptick in work on topics of immediate public interest. The collection of papers that follows results from one such event: a 3-day colloquium on the subject of socially engaged philosophy of science (SEPOS) held at the University of Cincinnati in October 2012. In this (...)
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  14. Feminist Implications of Model-Based Science.Angela Potochnik - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 43 (2):383-389.
    Recent philosophy of science has witnessed a shift in focus, in that significantly more consideration is given to how scientists employ models. Attending to the role of models in scientific practice leads to new questions about the representational roles of models, the purpose of idealizations, why multiple models are used for the same phenomenon, and many more besides. In this paper, I suggest that these themes resonate with central topics in feminist epistemology, in particular prominent versions of feminist empiricism, and (...)
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  15. Modeling Social and Evolutionary Games.Angela Potochnik - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 43 (1):202-208.
    When game theory was introduced to biology, the components of classic game theory models were replaced with elements more befitting evolutionary phenomena. The actions of intelligent agents are replaced by phenotypic traits; utility is replaced by fitness; rational deliberation is replaced by natural selection. In this paper, I argue that this classic conception of comprehensive reapplication is misleading, for it overemphasizes the discontinuity between human behavior and evolved traits. Explicitly considering the representational roles of evolutionary game theory brings to attention (...)
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    Scientific Explanation: Putting Communication First.Angela Potochnik - 2016 - Philosophy of Science 83 (5):721-732.
    Scientific explanations must bear the proper relationship to the world: they must depict what, out in the world, is responsible for the explanandum. But explanations must also bear the proper relationship to their audience: they must be able to create human understanding. With few exceptions, philosophical accounts of explanation either ignore entirely the relationship between explanations and their audience or else demote this consideration to an ancillary role. In contrast, I argue that considering an explanation’s communicative role is crucial to (...)
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  17. Revisiting Galison's 'Aufbau/Bauhaus' in Light of Neurath's Philosophical Projects.Angela Potochnik & Audrey Yap - 2006 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 37 (3):469-488.
    Historically, the Vienna Circle and the Dessau Bauhaus were related, with members of each group familiar with the ideas of the other. Peter Galison argues that their projects are related as well, through shared political views and methodological approach. The two main figures that connect the Vienna Circle to the Bauhaus—and the figures upon which Galison focuses—are Rudolf Carnap and Otto Neurath. Yet the connections that Galison develops do not properly capture the common themes between the Bauhaus and Neurath’s philosophical (...)
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  18.  30
    Biological Explanation.Angela Potochnik - 2013 - In Kostas Kampourakis (ed.), The Philosophy of Biology: A Companion for Educators. Springer. pp. 49-65.
    One of the central aims of science is explanation: scientists seek to uncover why things happen the way they do. This chapter addresses what kinds of explanations are formulated in biology, how explanatory aims influence other features of the field of biology, and the implications of all of this for biology education. Philosophical treatments of scientific explanation have been both complicated and enriched by attention to explanatory strategies in biology. Most basically, whereas traditional philosophy of science based explanation on derivation (...)
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    Defusing Ideological Defenses in Biology.Angela Potochnik - 2013 - BioScience 63 (2):118-123.
    Ideological language is widespread in theoretical biology. Evolutionary game theory has been defended as a worldview and a leap of faith, and sexual selection theory has been criticized for what it posits as basic to biological nature. Views such as these encourage the impression of ideological rifts in the field. I advocate an alternative interpretation, whereby many disagreements between different camps of biologists merely reflect methodological differences. This interpretation provides a more accurate and more optimistic account of the state of (...)
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  20. 1. On Ad Hoc Hypotheses On Ad Hoc Hypotheses (Pp. 1-14).J. Christopher Hunt, Kareem Khalifa, Ryan Muldoon, Tony Smith, Michael Weisberg, Michelle G. Gibbons, Elliott O. Wagner, Andreas Wagner, Angela Potochnik & Brian McGill - 2012 - Philosophy of Science 79 (1).
     
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  21.  35
    Recipes for Science: An Introduction to Scientific Methods and Reasoning.Angela Potochnik, Matteo Colombo & Cory Wright - 2018 - New York: Routledge.
    There is widespread recognition at universities that a proper understanding of science is needed for all undergraduates. Good jobs are increasingly found in fields related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine, and science now enters almost all aspects of our daily lives. For these reasons, scientific literacy and an understanding of scientific methodology are a foundational part of any undergraduate education. Recipes for Science provides an accessible introduction to the main concepts and methods of scientific reasoning. With the help of (...)
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