Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 55–70

Integrative Pluralism

  • Sandra D. Mitchell
Article

Abstract

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 

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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

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