Angela Potochnik

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A common argument against explanatory reductionism is that higher-level explanations are sometimes or always preferable because they are more general than reductive explanations. Here I challenge two basic assumptions that are needed for that argument to succeed. It cannot be assumed that higher-level explanations are more general than their lower-level(More)
The fate of optimality modeling is typically linked to that of adaptationism: the two are thought to stand or fall together (Gould and Lewontin, 1979; Orzack and Sober, 1994). I argue here that this is mistaken. The debate over adaptationism has tended to focus on one particular use of optimality models, which I refer to here as their strong use. The strong(More)
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 models have(More)
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 classic(More)
The general idea of perception is the recognition and interpretation of sensory stimuli based on memory and neurological processes that underlie this ability. In this paper I will review and contrast two major approaches to understanding perception: the AI inspired view of perception as passive computational processing of environmental sensory input and the(More)
In the early twentieth century, Conway Lloyd Morgan warned psychologists against describing the behavior of animals in terms of their mental deliberations. In particular, he suggested that animal psychologists should not call behaviors choices unless they had good evidence that the animals were actually choosing—a dig at Darwinian’s theory of sexual(More)
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,(More)
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(More)
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