Explanatory independence and epistemic interdependence: A case study of the optimality approach

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (1):213-233 (2010)
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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 dependence on other approaches; I suspect that the scenario is quite common in science. This investigation of the optimality approach thus serves as a case study, on the basis of which I suggest that there is a widely felt tension in science between explanatory independence and broad epistemic interdependence, and that this tension influences scientific methodology

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Angela Potochnik
University of Cincinnati


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