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Competition Theory and Channeling Explanation

Eliot, Christopher H. (2011) Competition Theory and Channeling Explanation. Philosophy and Theory in Biology, 3 (201306). pp. 1-16. ISSN 1949-0739

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Abstract

The complexity and heterogeneity of causes influencing ecology’s domain challenge its capacity to generate a general theory without exceptions, raising the question of whether ecology is capable, even in principle, of achieving the sort of theoretical success enjoyed by physics. Weber has argued that competition theory built around the Competitive Exclusion Principle (especially Tilman’s resource-competition model) offers an example of ecology identifying a law-like causal regularity. However, I suggest that as Weber presents it, the CEP is not yet a causal regularity. Instead, I argue that the scientific understanding in Tilman’s theory takes a different form. The theory explains through a structure I call “channeling explanation” which does not depend on deduction from general laws, but rather builds on constraints and trade-offs represented in state-space. Recognizing this structure supports the more general point that ecology and other so-called special sciences can reveal novel theoretical approaches to philosophy of science when approached with openness to their uniqueness.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Eliot, Christopher H.Christopher.H.Eliot@hofstra.edu
Keywords: ceteris paribus clauses, competitive exclusion principle, ecology, explanation, laws, plant succession, resource competition, Tilman (David)
Depositing User: Users 15304 not found.
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2014 16:52
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2014 16:52
Item ID: 10741
Journal or Publication Title: Philosophy and Theory in Biology
Publisher: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library
Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/ptb.6959004.0003.001
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.3998/ptb.6959004.0003.001
Date: March 2011
Page Range: pp. 1-16
Volume: 3
Number: 201306
ISSN: 1949-0739
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/10741

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