Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 281–293 | Cite as

Wimsatt and the robustness family: Review of Wimsatt’s Re-engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings

  • Brett CalcottEmail author
Review Essay


This review of Wimsatt’s book “Re-engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings” focuses on analysing his use of robustness, a central theme in the book. I outline a family of three distinct conceptions of robustness that appear in the book, and look at the different roles they play. I briefly examine what underwrites robustness, and suggest that further work is needed to clarify both the structure of robustness and the relation between it various conceptions.


Robustness Tinkering Engineering 


  1. Forber P (Forthcoming) Confirmation and explaining how possible. Studies in the history and philosophy of science part CGoogle Scholar
  2. Godfrey-Smith P (2006) The strategy of model-based science. Biol Philos 21:725–740CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Levins R (1966) The strategy of model building in population biology. In: Sober E (ed) Conceptual issues in evolutionary biology, 1st edn, vol 22. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp 18–27Google Scholar
  4. von Dassow G, Meir E, Munro E, Odell G (2000) The segment polarity network is a robust development module. Nature 406:188–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Wagner A (2007) Robustness and evolvability in living systems: (Princeton studies in complexity). Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  6. Weisberg M (2003) When less is more: tradeoffs and idealization in model building. Unpublished PhD, Stanford UniversityGoogle Scholar
  7. Weisberg M (2006) Robustness analysis. Philos Sci 73:730–742CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Wimsatt WC (2007) Re-engineering philosophy for limited beings: piecewise approximations to reality. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy Program, RSSS and Centre for Macroevolution & MacroecologyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

Personalised recommendations