Angela Potochnik

Angela Potochnik
University of Cincinnati | UC · Department of Philosophy

PhD

About

36
Publications
8,783
Reads
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544
Citations
Introduction
See my website angelapotochnik.com or my PhilPapers.org profile for article preprints and up-to-date information. My primary research interests are in the areas of philosophy of biology, philosophy of science, and history of philosophy of science. I am especially interested in the methodology of population biology; the role of idealized models in biology and in science more generally; how gender and other social factors influence science; the properties of scientific explanations; relations among different fields of science; and the history of logical empiricism, especially the work of Otto Neurath.
Additional affiliations
August 2013 - August 2013
University of Cincinnati
Position
  • Professor (Associate)
August 2010 - August 2013
University of Cincinnati
Position
  • Professor (Assistant)
August 2008 - May 2010
Oklahoma State University - Stillwater
Position
  • Professor (Assistant)
Education
September 2002 - May 2007
Stanford University
Field of study
  • Philosophy

Publications

Publications (36)
Article
Full-text available
Scientific realism is a thesis about the success of science. Most traditionally: science has been so successful at prediction and guiding action because its best theories are true (or approximately true or increasing in their degree of truth). If science is in the business of doing its best to generate true theories, then we should turn to those th...
Article
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Public participation in scientific research has gained prominence in many scientific fields, but the theory of participatory research is still limited. In this paper, we suggest that the divergence of values and goals between academic researchers and public participants in research is key to analyzing the different forms this research takes. We exa...
Article
Full-text available
Levels of organization and their use in science have received increased philosophical attention of late, including challenges to the well-foundedness or widespread usefulness of levels concepts. One kind of response to these challenges has been to advocate a more precise and specific levels concept that is coherent and useful. Another kind of respo...
Article
Full-text available
Positing levels of explanation has played an important role in philosophy of science. This facilitated the advocacy of antireductionism of explanations, which, at its most basic, is the idea that scientific explanations citing large (i.e. non-microphysical) entities will persist. The idea that explanations come in levels captures important features...
Article
Full-text available
In this paper, I first outline the view developed in my recent book on the role of idealization in scientific understanding. I discuss how this view leads to the recognition of a number of kinds of variability among scientific representations, including variability introduced by the many different aims of scientific projects. I then argue that the...
Article
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One of biology's fundamental aims is to generate understanding of the living world around—and within—us. In this chapter, I aim to provide a relatively nonpartisan discussion of the nature of explanation in biology, grounded in widely shared philosophical views about scientific explanation. But this discussion also reflects what I think is importan...
Article
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Many of our best scientific explanations incorporate idealizations, that is, false assumptions. Philosophers of science disagree about whether and to what extent we must as a result give up on truth as a prerequisite for explanation and thus understanding. Here I propose reframing this. Factivism or veritism about explanation is not, I think, an ob...
Article
Full-text available
Debate about cognitive science explanations has been formulated in terms of identifying the proper level(s) of explanation. Views range from reductionist, favoring only neuroscience explanations, to mechanist, favoring the integration of multiple levels, to pluralist, favoring the preservation of even the most general, high‐level explanations, such...
Book
Full-text available
This text provides an accessible introduction to the main concepts and methods of scientific reasoning. With the help of an array of contemporary and historical examples, definitions, visual aids, and exercises for active learning, the textbook helps to increase students’ scientific literacy. The first part of the book covers the definitive feature...
Article
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The tremendous philosophical focus on how to characterize explanatory metaphysical dependence has eclipsed a number of other unresolved issued about scientific explanation. The purpose of this paper is taxonomical. I will outline a number of other questions about the nature of explanation and its role in science—eight, to be precise—and argue that...
Article
Scientific explanations must bear the proper relationship to the world: they must depict what, out in the world, is responsible for the explanandum. But explanations must also bear the proper relationship to their audience: they must be able to create human understanding. With few exceptions, philosophical accounts of explanation either ignore enti...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Scientific explanations must bear the proper relationship to the world: they must depict what, out in the world, is responsible for the explanandum. But explanations must also bear the proper relationship to their audience: they must be able to create human understanding. With few exceptions, philosophical accounts of explanation either ignore enti...
Article
Full-text available
There is increasing attention to the centrality of idealization in science. One common view is that models and other idealized representations are important to science, but that they fall short in one or more ways. On this view, there must be an intermediary step between idealized representation and the traditional aims of science, including truth,...
Article
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Causal accounts of scientific explanation are currently broadly accepted (though not universally so). My first task in this paper is to show that, even for a causal approach to explanation, significant features of explanatory practice are not determined by settling how causal facts bear on the phenomenon to be explained. I then develop a broadly ca...
Article
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In recent years, philosophy of science has witnessed a significant increase in attention directed toward the field’s social relevance. This is demonstrated by the formation of societies with related agendas, the organization of research symposia, and an uptick in work on topics of immediate public interest. The collection of papers that follows res...
Chapter
One of the central aims of science is explanation: scientists seek to uncover why things happen the way they do. This chapter addresses what kinds of explanations are formulated in biology, how explanatory aims influence other features of the field of biology, and the implications of all of this for biology education. Philosophical treatments of sc...
Article
Full-text available
Ideological language is widespread in theoretical biology. Evolutionary game theory has been defended as a worldview and a leap of faith, and sexual selection theory has been criticized for what it posits as basic to biological nature. Views such as these encourage the impression of ideological rifts in the field. I advocate an alternative interpre...
Article
Full-text available
One of the central aims of science is explanation: scientists seek to uncover why things happen the way they do. This chapter addresses what kinds of explanations are formulated in biology, how explanatory aims influence other features of the field of biology, and the implications of all of this for biology education. Philosophical treatments of sc...
Article
Full-text available
Recent philosophy of science has witnessed a shift in focus, in that significantly more consideration is given to how scientists employ models. Attending to the role of models in scientific practice leads to new questions about the representational roles of models, the purpose of idealizations, why multiple models are used for the same phenomenon,...
Article
Full-text available
When game theory was introduced to biology, the components of classic game theory models were replaced with elements more befitting evolutionary phenomena. The actions of intelligent agents are replaced by phenotypic traits; utility is replaced by fitness; rational deliberation is replaced by natural selection. In this paper, I argue that this clas...
Article
Full-text available
The concept of levels of organization is prominent in science and central to a variety of debates in philosophy of science. Yet many difficulties plague the concept of universal and discrete hierarchical levels, and these undermine implications commonly ascribed to hierarchical organization. We suggest the concept of scale as a promising alternativ...
Article
Full-text available
An historically important conception of the unity of science is explanatory reductionism, according to which the unity of science is achieved by explaining all laws of science in terms of their connection to microphysical law. There is, however, a separate tradition that advocates the unity of science. According to that tradition, the unity of scie...
Article
Full-text available
For Potochnik's essay: As detailed in The Genial Gene (2009), Joan Roughgarden's conception of social selection involves twenty-six empirical hypotheses regarding the evolution of a variety of traits related to sexual reproduction, gender, and the rearing of offspring. Yet Roughgarden sets out to show something even beyond this array of empirical h...
Article
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In Depth (2009), Michael Strevens offers an account of causal explanation according to which explanatory practice is shaped by counterbalanced commitments to representing causal influence and abstracting away from overly specific details. Here I outline Strevens’ approach to event explanation and raise one concern with that account. I argue that wh...
Article
Full-text available
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 the...
Article
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According to explanatory reductionism, the theories and laws of physics explain higher- level phenomena better than the theories and laws that deal with these higher-level phenom- ena directly. Many arguments that have been formulated against explanatory reductionism amount to the idea that higher-level explanations are sometimes or always preferab...
Article
Full-text available
Michael Strevens offers an account of causal explanation according to which explanatory practice is shaped by counterbalanced commitments to representing causal influence and abstracting away from overly specific details. In this paper, I challenge a key feature of that account. I argue that what Strevens calls explanatory frameworks figure promine...
Article
Full-text available
The fate of optimality modeling is typically linked to that of adaptationism: the two are thought to stand or fall together (Gould and Lewontin, Proc Relig Soc Lond 205:581–598, 1979; Orzack and Sober, Am Nat 143(3):361–380, 1994). I argue here that this is mistaken. The debate over adaptationism has tended to focus on one particular use of optimal...
Article
Full-text available
The optimality approach to modeling natural selection has been criticized by many biologists and philosophers of biology. For instance, Lewontin (1979) argues that the optimality approach is a shortcut that will be replaced by models incorporating genetic information, if and when such models become available. In contrast, I think that optimality mo...
Article
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In his article entitled ‘Aufbau/Bauhaus’ and related work, Peter Galison explores the connections between the Vienna Circle and the Dessau Bauhaus. Historically, these groups were related, with members of each group familiar with the ideas of the other. Galison argues that their projects are related as well, through shared political views and metho...

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Archived project
In this book I motivate a strong view of idealizations' centrality to science, and I reconsider the aims of science in light of that centrality. On the account I develop, science does not pursue truth directly, but instead aims to support human cognitive and practical ends. Those are projects to which idealizations can directly contribute in a number of ways. The book is forthcoming with University of Chicago Press.