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Qualitative Scientific Modeling and Loop Analysis

James Justus
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 72, No. 5, Proceedings of the 2004 Biennial Meeting of The Philosophy of Science AssociationPart I: Contributed PapersEdited by Miriam Solomon (December 2005), pp. 1272-1286
DOI: 10.1086/508099
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/508099
Page Count: 15
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Qualitative Scientific Modeling and Loop Analysis
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Abstract

Loop analysis is a method of qualitative modeling anticipated by Sewall Wright (1921) and systematically developed by Richard Levins. In Levins’ (1966) distinctions between modeling strategies, loop analysis sacrifices precision for generality and realism. Besides criticizing the clarity of these distinctions, Orzack and Sober (1993) argued qualitative modeling is conceptually and methodologically problematic. Loop analysis of the stability of ecological communities shows this criticism is unjustified. It presupposes an overly narrow view of qualitative modeling and underestimates the broad role models play in scientific research, especially in helping scientists represent and understand complex systems.

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