Contrasting Cases: The Lotka-Volterra Model Times Three

Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science 319:151-178 (2016)
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How do philosophers of science make use of historical case studies? Are their accounts of historical cases purpose-built and lacking in evidential strength as a result of putting forth and discussing philosophical positions? We will study these questions through the examination of three different philosophical case studies. All of them focus on modeling and on Vito Volterra, contrasting his work to that of other theoreticians. We argue that the worries concerning the evidential role of historical case studies in philosophy are partially unfounded, and the evidential and hermeneutical roles of case studies need not be played against each other. In philosophy of science, case studies are often tied to conceptual and theoretical analysis and development, rendering their evidential and theoretic/hermeneutic roles intertwined. Moreover, the problems of resituating or generalizing local knowledge are not specific to philosophy of science but commonplace in many scientific practices—which show similarities to the actual use of historical case studies by philosophers of science.

Author Profiles

Tarja Knuuttila
University of Vienna
Andrea Loettgers
University of Vienna


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