Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 305–313 | Cite as

Review of Sandra D. Mitchell: Unsimple truths: science, complexity, and policy

The University of Chicago Press, 2009
Review Essay


In Unsimple truths, Sandra D. Mitchell examines the historical context of current scientific practices and elaborates the challenges complexity has since posed to status quo science and policymaking. Mitchell criticizes models of science inspired by Newtonian physics and argues for a pragmatistic, anti-universalist approach to science. In this review, I focus on what I find to be the most important point of the book, Mitchell’s argument for the conceptual independence of compositional materialism and descriptive fundamentalism. Along the way, I provide a description of Mitchell’s overall project and a road map of the book.


Complexity Compositional materialism Contingency Descriptive fundamentalism Emergentism Reductionism Scientific laws Scientific method 


  1. Hempel CG (1965) Aspects of scientific explanation and other essays in the philosophy of science. The Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Jadrich J (1996) Newtonian mechanics. Macmillan Encyclopedia of Physics, vol 3. Simon & Schuster Macmillan, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  3. Kim J (1999) Making sense of emergence. Philos Stud 95:3–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Mitchell SD (2003) Biological complexity and integrative pluralism. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  5. Mitchell SD (2009) Unsimple truths: science, complexity, and policy. The University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  6. Nagel E (1961) The reduction of theories. In: The structure of science: problems in the logic of scientific explanation. Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., New York, pp 336–397Google Scholar
  7. Sklar L (1992) Reflections on the interdependence of philosophy and science. In: Philosophy of physics. Westview Press, pp 227–232Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Philosophy and BiologyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

Personalised recommendations