- Hardcover: 472 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press (June 30, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674015452
- ISBN-13: 978-0674015456
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,617,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings: Piecewise Approximations to Reality
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Bill Wimsatt is a visionary. He was, and remains, a man ahead of his time. One sees, in these essays (some old, some new), how he challenged orthodox philosophical views of science, and how much contemporary methodological work now conforms to his prescient understanding and analysis. Wimsatt was a pioneer in displaying how messy and complex our world is and in demonstrating how our idealized conceptions of the logic of science, of the nature of our arguments, and of intertheoretic relations, need to be "messied" up to capture and reflect the actual detailed practice and understanding of scientific investigations. Simply read the introductory chapter "Myths of La Placean Omnicience" and you will see why you must read the entire book. (Robert Batterman, Rotman Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Science, University of Western Ontario)
Wimsatt is concerned with an aspect of the philosophy of biology that has not been a major concern of most philosophers in modern times. He is grappling with the issue of biological complexity and it is certainly an important set of questions. Indeed, it may be the central issue for the philosophy of biology. (Richard Lewontin, Alexander Agassiz Research Professor,Harvard University)
Wimsatt is very thoughtful and imaginative. He has a subtle position on reduction. He shows that it is necessary to hold to a sophisticated position on this issue, [and he] avoids reifying things at the upper level. (Herbert Simon, recipient of the 1975 Nobel Prize in Economics)
In the rich and impressive collection of essays gathered as Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings, Bill Wimsatt argues that philosophy of science, in its standard forms, has chosen the wrong models: the wrong models of scientists, of their products, and of their explanatory targets...Wimsatt is among the most creative, original, and empirically informed philosophers of our day. These essays clearly demonstrate his imagination, his mastery of many diverse literatures, and his eye for the big question...Few essay collections are integrated and systematic: Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings is an important exception. (Kim Sterelny Science 2008-07-18)
About the Author
William Wimsatt is Professor of Philosophy and of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago.
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As a biologist, I found the book's message quite simple, yet very powerful. Wimssatt goes deep into the scrutiny of his ideas, without becoming too boring. In fact, the reading felt to me like a continuous, engaging brain storm. Very nice.
He covers heuristics and satisficing, provides a novel definition of emergence, describes when reductionism is useful, and gives a fascinating and holistic view for how nature is organized in levels that roughly track our academic disciplines (physics, chemistry, biology, etc).
The book was fascinating as a take on mental models and explanations that comes from an angle I’m not used to seeing elsewhere (namely biology).
Everything useless relative to this purpose is eliminated.
What remains is very complex and intriguing.
More than this, it is useful.
As philosophy should be.
Weaknesses: I cannot find any real weaknesses, certainly none that can be explained concisely and without elaborate give-and-take. Found a single, lone typo on page 168, four lines from bottom, where the intended word should be "Second." No other problems or criticism detected. Newton is supposed to have said, If I have seen further than others, it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants who came before me. Not to lay it on too thick - but if not now when? - in this case, Newton's saying actually applies.