Shifting to structures in physics and biology: A prophylactic for promiscuous realism

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (2):164-173 (2011)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Within the philosophy of science, the realism debate has been revitalised by the development of forms of structural realism. These urge a shift in focus from the object oriented ontologies that come and go through the history of science to the structures that remain through theory change. Such views have typically been elaborated in the context of theories of physics and are motivated by, first of all, the presence within such theories of mathematical equations that allow straightforward representation of the relevant structures; and secondly, the implications of such theories for the individuality and identity of putative objects. My aim in this talk is to explore the possibility of extending such views to biological theories. An obvious concern is that within the context of the latter it is typically insisted that we cannot find the kinds of highly mathematised structures that structural realism can point to in physics. I shall indicate how the model-theoretic approach to theories might help allay such concerns. Furthermore, issues of identity and individuality also arise within biology. Thus Dupre has recently noted that there exists a ‘General Problem of Biological Individuality’ which relates to the issue of how one divides ‘massively integrated and interconnected’ systems into discrete components. In response Dupre advocates a form of ‘Promiscuous Realism’ that holds, for example, that there is no unique way of dividing the phylogenetic tree into kinds. Instead I shall urge serious consideration of those aspects of the work of Dupre and others that lean towards a structuralist interpretation. By doing so I hope to suggest possible ways in which a structuralist stance might be extended to biology

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,931

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Promiscuous Realism.Robert A. Wilson - 1996 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (2):303-316.
Promiscuous realism.Gunther S. Stent - 1994 - Biology and Philosophy 9 (4):497-506.
Promiscuous Objects, Hybrid Truth and Scientific Realism.Julia Friederike Göhner & Markus Seidel - 2013 - In Marie I. Kaiser & Ansgar Seide (eds.), Philip Kitcher – Pragmatic Naturalism. Frankfurt/Main, Germany: ontos. pp. 111-127.
The modal nature of structures in ontic structural realism.Michael Esfeld - 2009 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 23 (2):179 – 194.
Promiscuous Realism: Reply to Wilson.John Dupré - 1996 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (3):441-444.
Structural realism and the nature of structure.Jonas R. Becker Arenhart & Otávio Bueno - 2015 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 5 (1):111-139.
The mechanics of individuality in nature.Stanford Goldman - 1971 - Foundations of Physics 1 (4):395-408.
Defending promiscuous realism about natural kinds.Chris Daly - 1996 - Philosophical Quarterly 46 (185):496-500.
Do Objects Depend on Structures?Johanna Wolff - 2012 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 63 (3):607-625.
Pragmatic Unification, Observation and Realism in Astroparticle Physics.Brigitte Falkenburg - 2012 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 43 (2):327-345.

Analytics

Added to PP
2010-01-07

Downloads
303 (#69,607)

6 months
19 (#145,430)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Steven French
University of Leeds

References found in this work

What is structural realism?James Ladyman - 1998 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 29 (3):409-424.

View all 52 references / Add more references