Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 741–755 | Cite as

Strategies of abstraction

  • Richard LevinsEmail author
Original Paper


Abstraction is seen as an active process which both enlightens and obscures. Abstractions are not true or false but relatively enlightening or obscuring according to the problem under study; different abstractions may grasp different aspects of a problem. Abstractions may be useless if they can answer questions only about themselves. A theoretical enterprise explores reality through acluster of abstractions that use different perspectives, temporal and horizontal scales, and assumes different givens.


Abstraction Models Modeling Complexity Systems 


  1. Brecht B (2003) To posterity. In: Grimm R, Caroline Molina, Vedia (eds) Bertotlt Brecht: poetry and prose. Continuum Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Levins R, Lewontin R (1985) The dialectical biologist. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MAGoogle Scholar
  3. Lewontin R, Levins R (1989) On the characterization of density and resource availability. Am Nat 134(4):513–524CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ollman B (2003) Dance of the dialectic: steps in Marx’s method. University of Illinois Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  5. Polya G (1990) Mathematics and plausible reasoning. Princeton University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Ecología y SistemáticaBoyerosCuba
  2. 2.Harvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA

Personalised recommendations