, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 725-740
Date: 13 Dec 2006

The strategy of model-based science

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access
This is an excerpt from the content

Introduction

My title refers to Richard Levins’ famous paper on models in population biology (1966). Here Levins presented his three-way distinction between kinds of model-building, and also introduced a set of more fundamental ideas about trade-offs that constrain and guide scientific work. For Levins, these trade-offs derive from the relationships between three different theoretical goals: realism, precision, and generality.

The talk of “strategies” within Levins’ paper concerns alternative strategies within the enterprise of model-building. My topic here is broader; I will treat models and model-building as characteristic of one particular approach to theorizing, a strategy of model-based science.

The ideas presented here are indebted to Michael Weisberg’s work (forthcoming, 2003), and to discussions with him at Stanford. They are also indebted to a scattered tradition of other philosophical and scientific work, especially by Levins, Giere, and Wimsatt. The aim of the paper is to give

Presented at a conference on Richard Levins at the University of Pennsylvania, 2005.