Complex systems are built from simpler components: organisms from cells, cells from proteins, and proteins from amino acids. A common, and often successful scientific strategy is to explain a system by first explaining its parts in isolation. Is this always the best approach? In her talk Prof. Mitchell will explore the ways emergence, historical contingency and robustness reshape our understanding of scientific explanation.
Sandra Mitchell is professor and chair of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her academic training at Pitzer College, The London School of Economics and the University of Pittsburgh. Her research investigates the epistemic, metaphysical and pragmatic features of scientific explanations of complex behaviors. She is the author of Unsimple Truths: Science, Complexity and Policy, University of Chicago Press, 2009; Komplexitäten. Warum wir erst anfangen, die Welt zu verstehen, Suhrkamp Verlag, 2008; Biological Complexity and Integrative Pluralism, Cambridge University Press, 2003. She is president-elect of The Philosophy of Science Association and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.