How are the sciences of complex systems possible?

Philosophy of Science 72 (4):531-556 (2005)
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Abstract

To understand the behavior of a complex system, you must understand the interactions among its parts. Doing so is difficult for non-decomposable systems, in which the interactions strongly influence the short-term behavior of the parts. Science's principal tool for dealing with non-decomposable systems is a variety of probabilistic analysis that I call EPA. I show that EPA's power derives from an assumption that appears to be false of non-decomposable complex systems, in virtue of their very non-decomposability. Yet EPA is extremely successful. I aim to find an interpretation of EPA's assumption that is consistent with, indeed that explains, its success.

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Michael Strevens
New York University

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