Modelling as Indirect Representation? The Lotka–Volterra Model Revisited

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (4):1007-1036 (2017)
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ABSTRACT Is there something specific about modelling that distinguishes it from many other theoretical endeavours? We consider Michael Weisberg’s thesis that modelling is a form of indirect representation through a close examination of the historical roots of the Lotka–Volterra model. While Weisberg discusses only Volterra’s work, we also study Lotka’s very different design of the Lotka–Volterra model. We will argue that while there are elements of indirect representation in both Volterra’s and Lotka’s modelling approaches, they are largely due to two other features of contemporary model construction processes that Weisberg does not explicitly consider: the methods-drivenness and outcome-orientedness of modelling. 1Introduction 2Modelling as Indirect Representation 3The Design of the Lotka–Volterra Model by Volterra 3.1Volterra’s method of hypothesis 3.2The construction of the Lotka–Volterra model by Volterra 4The Design of the Lotka–Volterra Model by Lotka 4.1Physical biology according to Lotka 4.2Lotka’s systems approach and the Lotka–Volterra model 5Philosophical Discussion: Strategies and Tools of Modelling 5.1Volterra’s path from the method of isolation to the method of hypothesis 5.2The template-based approach of Lotka 5.3Modelling: methods-driven and outcome-oriented 6Conclusion

Author Profiles

Tarja Knuuttila
University of Vienna
Andrea Loettgers
University of Vienna


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