Journal Article

Why do Spatiotemporally Restricted Regularities Explain in the Social Sciences?

Alex Rosenberg

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 63, issue 1, pages 1-26
Published in print March 2012 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online June 2011 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Why do Spatiotemporally Restricted Regularities Explain in the Social Sciences?

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Employing a well-known local regularity from macroeconomics, the Phillips curve, I examine Woodward’s ([2000], [2003]) account of the explanatory power of such historically restricted generalizations and the mathematical models with which they are sometimes associated. The article seeks to show that, pace Woodward, to be explanatory such generalizations need to be underwritten by more fundamental ones, and that rational choice theory would not avail in this case to provide the required underwriting. Examining how such explanatory restricted regularities are underwritten in biology—by unrestricted Darwinian regularities—provides the basis for an argument that Darwinian regularities serve the same function in human affairs. The general argument for this claim requires, inter alia, that we accept some version or other of a theory of memes. The article concludes by clearing the field of some prominent objections to the existence of memes, and extracting some policy implications from the persistence and acceleration of arms races in human affairs.


2Invariance as Evidence or Diagnosis: An Example from Woodward

3Why are Restricted Regularities Explanatory?

4Invariance and Arms Races in Biology

5Restricted Regularities, and Arms Races in Human Affairs

6Dealing with the No-memes Objection to Darwinism about Human Affairs

7Conclusion: A Moral for Institution Design

Journal Article.  11277 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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