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Metaphysics and the Philosophy of ScienceNew Essays$
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Matthew Slater and Zanja Yudell

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780199363209

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199363209.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 15 October 2021

Ontology, Complexity, and Compositionality

Ontology, Complexity, and Compositionality

(p.41) 2 Ontology, Complexity, and Compositionality
Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science

Michael Strevens

Oxford University Press

Sciences of complex systems thrive on compositional theories—toolkits that allow the construction of models of a wide range of systems, each consisting of various parts put together in different ways. To be tractable, a compositional theory must make shrewd choices about the parts and properties that constitute its basic ontology. One such choice is to decompose a system into spatiotemporally discrete parts. Compositional theories in the high-level sciences follow this rule of thumb to a certain extent, but they also make essential use of what I call distributed ontologies: divisions of the system into entities or states of affairs each depending on sets of fundamental-level facts that to a large extent overlap. The point is developed using the example of statistical theories in which the probabilities are ontologically distributed.

Keywords:   complexity, complex system, probability, statistical independence, causal independence, unity of science, explanatory autonomy, ontology of science, compositionality

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