Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 55–70 | Cite as

Integrative Pluralism

  • Sandra D. Mitchell


The `fact' of pluralism in science is nosurprise. Yet, if science is representing andexplaining the structure of the oneworld, why is there such a diversity ofrepresentations and explanations in somedomains? In this paper I consider severalphilosophical accounts of scientific pluralismthat explain the persistence of bothcompetitive and compatible alternatives. PaulSherman's `Levels of Analysis' account suggeststhat in biology competition betweenexplanations can be partitioned by the type ofquestion being investigated. I argue that thisaccount does not locate competition andcompatibility correctly. I then defend anintegrative model for understanding pluralism. This view is based on taking seriously both thecomplexity and contingency of biologicalorganization and the idealized character ofbiological models. On this view, explanationbecomes, among other things, the location forthe integration of diverse models. I explicatemy argument by an analysis of explanations ofdivision of labor in social insects.

complexity division of labor idealization levels of analysis pluralism self-organization 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Beatty, J.: 1987, 'Natural Selection and the Null Hypothesis', in J. Dupré (ed.), The Latest on the Best: Essays on Evolution and Optimality, The MIT Press, Cambridge, pp. 53-76.Google Scholar
  2. Beatty, J.: 1994, 'Ernst Mayr and the Proximate/Ultimate Distinction', Biology and Philosophy 9, 333-356.Google Scholar
  3. Beshers, S.N. and Fewell, J.H.: 2001, 'Models of Division of Labor in Social Insects', Annual Review of Ecology 46, 413-440.Google Scholar
  4. Bonabeau, E., Theraulaz, G., Deneubourg, J.-L., Aron, S. and Camazine, S.: 1997, 'Self-Organization in Social Insects', TREE 12(5), 188-193.Google Scholar
  5. Boomsma, J.J., Fjerdingstad, E.J. and Frydenberg, J.: 1999, 'Multiple Paternity, Relatedness and Genetic Diversity in Acromyrmex Leaf-Cutter Ants', Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B 266, 249-254.Google Scholar
  6. Bourke, A.F.G. and Franks, N.R.: 1995, Social Evolution in Ants, Princeton University Press, Princeton.Google Scholar
  7. Calderone, N.W. and Page Jr., R.E.: 1992, 'Effects of Interactions Among Genotypically Diverse Nestmates on Task Specializations by Foraging Honey Bees (Apis mellifera)', Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 30, 219-226.Google Scholar
  8. Cartwright, N.: 1994, 'Fundamentalism vs. the Patchwork of Laws', Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 279-292.Google Scholar
  9. Cartwright, N.: 2000, The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science, Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Deneubourg, J., Goss, S., Pasteels, J., Fresneau, D. and Lachaud, J.: 1987, 'Self-Organization Mechanisms in Ant Societies (II): Learning in Foraging and Division of Labor', Experientia Supplementum 54, 177-196.Google Scholar
  11. Dupré, J.: 1993, The Disorder of Things, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  12. Dupré, J.: 1996, 'Metaphysical Disorder and Scientific Disunity', in P. Galison and D. Stump (eds), The Disunity of Science, Stanford University Press, Stanford, pp. 101-117.Google Scholar
  13. Fewell, J.H. and Page Jr., R.E.: 1999, 'The Emergence of Division of Labour in Forced Associations of Normally Solitary Ant Queens', Evolutionary Ecology Research 1, 537-548.Google Scholar
  14. Feyerabend, P.K.: 1981, Philosophical Papers, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  15. Hacking, I.: 1996, 'The Disunities of the Sciences', in P. Galison and D. Stump (eds), The Disunity of Science, Stanford University Press, Stanford, pp. 37-74.Google Scholar
  16. Kauffman S.: 1993, Origins of Order, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  17. Kitcher, P.: 1991, 'The Division of Cognitive Labor', Journal of Philosophy 87, 5-22.Google Scholar
  18. Kuhn, T.S.: 1962, The Structure of Scientific Revolution, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  19. Lakatos, I.: 1978, in J. Worrall and G. Currie (eds), The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  20. Levins, R.: 1968, Evolution in Changing Environments, Princeton University Press, Princeton.Google Scholar
  21. Mayr, E.: 1961, 'Cause and Effect in Biology', Science 134, 1501-1506.Google Scholar
  22. Mitchell, S.D.: 1992, 'On Pluralism and Competition in Evolutionary Explanations', American Zoologist 32, 135-144.Google Scholar
  23. Mitchell, S.D., Daston, L., Gigerenzer, G., Sesardic, N. and Sloep, P.: 1997, 'The Why's and How's of Interdisciplinarity', in P. Weingart, S.D. Mitchell, P. Richerson and S. Maasen (eds), Human by Nature: Between Biology and the Social Sciences, Erlbaum Press, Mahwah, New Jersey, pp. 103-150.Google Scholar
  24. Murray, J.D.: 1988, 'How the Leopard Gets Its Spots', Scientific American 259, 80-87.Google Scholar
  25. Oster, G. and Murray, J.: 1989, 'Pattern Formation Models and Developmental Constraints', J. Exp. Zool. 251, 186-202.Google Scholar
  26. Oster, G. and Wilson, E.O.: 1978, Caste and Ecology in the Social Insects, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  27. Page Jr., R.E. and Metcalf, R.A.: 1982, 'Multiple Mating, Sperm Utilization, and Social Evolution', American Naturalist 119, 263-281.Google Scholar
  28. Page Jr., R.E. and Mitchell, S.D.: 1991, 'Self Organization and Adaptation in Insect Societies', in A. Fine, M. Forbes and L. Wessels (eds), PSA 1990, Volume 2, Philosophy of Science Association, East Lansing, Michigan, pp. 289-298.Google Scholar
  29. Page Jr., R.E. and Mitchell, S.D.: 1998, 'Self Organization and the Evolution of Division of Labor', Apidologie 29, 101-120.Google Scholar
  30. Page Jr., R.E. and Robinson, G.E.: 1991, 'The Genetics of Division of Labour in Honey Bee Colonies', Advances in Insect Physiology 23, 117-169.Google Scholar
  31. Reeve, H.K. and Sherman, P.W.: 1993, 'Adaptation and the Goals of Evolutionary Research', The Quarterly Review of Biology 68(1), 1-32.Google Scholar
  32. Robinson, G.E. and Page Jr., R.E.: 1989, 'Genetic Basis for Division of Labor in an Insect Society', in M.D. Breed and R.E. Page Jr. (eds), The Genetics of Social Evolution, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, pp. 61-80.Google Scholar
  33. Seeley, T.D.: 1995, The Wisdom of the Hive, Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Seeley, T.D. and C.A. Tovey: 1994, 'Why Search Time to Find a Food-Storer Bee Accurately Indicates the Relatives Rates of Nectar Collecting and Nectar Processing in Honey Bee Colonies', Animal Behavior 47(2), 311-316.Google Scholar
  35. Sherman, P.W.: 1988, 'The Levels of Analysis', Animal Behavior 36, 616-619.Google Scholar
  36. Tinbergen, N.: 1963, 'On the Aims and Methods of Ethology', Z. Tierpsychol. 20, 410-433.Google Scholar
  37. Tofts, C. and N.R. Franks: 1992, 'Doing the Right Thing: Ants, Honeybees and Naked Mole-Rats', TREE 7, 346-349.Google Scholar
  38. Wilson, E.O.: 1971, The Insect Societies, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  39. Wimsatt, W.: 1987, 'False Models as Means to Truer Theories', in M.H. Nitecki and A. Hoffman (eds), Neutral Models in Biology, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 23-55.Google Scholar
  40. Winston, M.: 1987, The Biology of the Honey Bee, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sandra D. Mitchell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of History and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of PittsburghU.S.A

Personalised recommendations