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Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings


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Table of Contents

I. INTRODUCTION 1. Myths of LaPlacean Omniscience Realism for Limited Beings in a Rich Messy World Social Natures Heuristics as Adaptations for the Real World Nature as Backwoods Mechanic and Used-Parts Dealer Error and Change Organization and Aims of This Book 2. Normative Idealizations versus the Metabolism of Error Inadequacies of Our Normative Idealizations Satisficing, Heuristics, and Possible Behavior for Real Agents The Productive Use of Error-Prone Procedures 3. Toward a Philosophy for Limited Beings The Stance and Outlook of a Scientifically Informed Philosophy of Science Ceteris Paribus, Complexity, and Philosophical Method Our Present and Future Naturalistic Philosophical Methods II. PROBLEM-SOLVING STRATEGIES FOR COMPLEX SYSTEMS 4. Robustness, Reliability, and Overdetermination Common Features of Concepts of Robustness Robustness and the Structure of Theories Robustness, Testability, and the Nature of Theoretical Terms Robustness, Redundancy, and Discovery Robustness, Objectification, and Realism Robustness and Levels of Organization Heuristics and Robustness Robustness, Independence, and Pseudo-Robustness: A Case Study 5. Heuristics and the Study of Human Behavior Heuristics Reductionist Research Strategies and Their Biases An Example of Reductionist Biases: Models of Group Selection Heuristics Can Hide Their Tracks Two Strategies for Correcting Reductionist Biases The Importance of Heuristics in the Study of Human Behavior 6. False Models as Means to Truer Theories Even the Best Models Have "Biases" The Concept of a "Neutral Model" How Models Can Misrepresent Twelve Things To Do with False Models Background of the Debate over Linkage Mapping in Genetics Castle's Attack on the "Linear Linkage" Model Muller's Data and the Haldane Mapping Function Muller's "Two-Dimensional" Arguments against Castle Multiply-Counterfactual Uses of False Models False Models Can Provide New Predictive Tests Highlighting Features of a Preferred Model False Models and Adaptive Design Arguments Summary and Conclusions 7. Robustness and Entrenchment: How the Contingent Becomes Necessary Generative Entrenchment and the Architecture of Adaptive Design Generative Systems Come To Dominate in Evolutionary Processes Resistance to Foundational Revisions Bootstrapping Feedbacks: Differential Dependencies and Stable Generators Implications of Generative Entrenchment Generative Entrenchment and Robustness Conclusion 8. Lewontin's Evidence (That There Isn't Any) Is Evidence Impotent, or Just Inconstant? False Models as Means to Truer Theories Narrative Accounts and Theory as Montage III. REDUCTIONISM(S) IN PRACTICE 9. Complexity and Organization Reductionism and the Analysis of Complex Systems Complexity Evolution, Complexity, and Organization Complexity and the Localization of Function 10. The Ontology of Complex Systems: Levels of Organization, Perspectives, and Causal Thickets Robustness and Reality Levels of Organization Perspectives: A Preliminary Characterization Causal Thickets 11. Reductive Explanation: A Functional Account Two Kinds of Rational Reconstruction Successional versus Inter-Level Reduction Levels of Organization and the Co-Evolution and Development of Interlevel Theories Two Views of Explanation: Major Factors and Mechanisms versus Laws and Deductive Completeness Levels of Organization and Explanatory Costs and Benefits An Example: The Assumption of "the Purity of the Gametes" in the Heterozygote Identificatory Hypotheses as Tools in the Search for Explanations Appendix: Modifications Appropriate to a Cost-Benefit Version of Salmon's Account of Explanation 12. Emergence as Non-Aggregativity and the Biases of Reductionism(s) Reduction and Emergence Aggregativity Perspectival, Contextual, and Representational Complexities; or, "It Ain't Quite So Simple as That!" Adaptation to Fine- and Coarse-Grained Environments: Derivational Paradoxes for a Formal Account of Aggregativity Aggregativity and Dimensionality Aggregativity as a Heuristic for Evaluating Decompositions, and Our Concepts of Natural Kinds Reductionisms and Biases Revisited IV. ENGINEERING AN EVOLUTIONARY VIEW OF SCIENCE 13. Epilogue: On the Softening of the "Hard" Sciences From Straw-Man Reductionist to Lover of Complexity Messiness in State-of-the-Art Theoretical Physics Hidden Elegance and Revelations in Run-of-the-Mill Applied Science "Pure" versus Applied Science, and What Difference Should It Make? Hortatory Closure Appendix A. Important Properties of Heuristics Appendix B. Common Reductionistic Heuristics Appendix C. Glossary of Key Concepts and Assumptions Appendix D. A Panoply of LaPlacean and Leibnizian Demons Notes Bibliography Credits Index

Promotional Information

Bill Wimsatt is a visionary. He was, and remains, a man ahead of his time. One sees, in these essays (some old, some new), how he challenged orthodox philosophical views of science, and how much contemporary methodological work now conforms to his prescient understanding and analysis. Wimsatt was a pioneer in displaying how messy and complex our world is and in demonstrating how our idealized conceptions of the logic of science, of the nature of our arguments, and of intertheoretic relations, need to be "messied" up to capture and reflect the actual detailed practice and understanding of scientific investigations. Simply read the introductory chapter "Myths of La Placean Omnicience" and you will see why you must read the entire book. -- Robert Batterman, Rotman Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Science, University of Western Ontario Wimsatt is concerned with an aspect of the philosophy of biology that has not been a major concern of most philosophers in modern times. He is grappling with the issue of biological complexity and it is certainly an important set of questions. Indeed, it may be the central issue for the philosophy of biology. -- Richard Lewontin, Alexander Agassiz Research Professor,Harvard University Wimsatt is very thoughtful and imaginative. He has a subtle position on reduction. He shows that it is necessary to hold to a sophisticated position on this issue, [and he] avoids reifying things at the upper level. -- Herbert Simon, recipient of the 1975 Nobel Prize in Economics

About the Author

William Wimsatt is Professor of Philosophy and of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago.


In the rich and impressive collection of essays gathered as Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings, Bill Wimsatt argues that philosophy of science, in its standard forms, has chosen the wrong models: the wrong models of scientists, of their products, and of their explanatory targets...Wimsatt is among the most creative, original, and empirically informed philosophers of our day. These essays clearly demonstrate his imagination, his mastery of many diverse literatures, and his eye for the big question...Few essay collections are integrated and systematic: Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings is an important exception. -- Kim Sterelny Science 20080718

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