Journal Article

Explanatory Independence and Epistemic Interdependence: A Case Study of the Optimality Approach

Angela Potochnik

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 61, issue 1, pages 213-233
Published in print March 2010 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online June 2009 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axp022
Explanatory Independence and Epistemic Interdependence: A Case Study of the Optimality Approach

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The value of optimality modeling has long been a source of contention amongst population biologists. Here I present a view of the optimality approach as at once playing a crucial explanatory role and yet also depending on external sources of confirmation. Optimality models are not alone in facing this tension between their explanatory value and their dependence on other approaches; I suspect that the scenario is quite common in science. This investigation of the optimality approach thus serves as a case study, on the basis of which I suggest that there is a widely felt tension in science between explanatory independence and broad epistemic interdependence, and that this tension influences scientific methodology.

Introduction 1.1

The optimality approach and its detractors

1.2

The optimality approach and antireductionism

Explanatory Independence 2.1

Optimality explanations

2.2

Causal patterns and context of inquiry

Epistemic Interdependence 3.1

What optimality models overlook

3.2

Mutual epistemic dependence

Balancing Independence and Interdependence

Journal Article.  8209 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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