Cover: Bigger than Chaos: Understanding Complexity through Probability, from Harvard University PressCover: Bigger than Chaos in PAPERBACK

Bigger than Chaos

Understanding Complexity through Probability

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Product Details


$37.50 • £30.95 • €34.00

ISBN 9780674022591

Publication Date: 09/30/2006


432 pages

5-11/16 x 8-15/16 inches

39 line illustrations


[Strevens] shows how, in the right hands at least, the mathematisation of population ecology does not need to obscure or ignore the underlying biology. Rather, the mathematics can be seen to represent the underlying biology in a systematic, simple, and natural way.—Mark Colyvan, Biology and Philosophy

In this ambitious reformulation of the probabilistic descriptions of stability (equilibrium, quasi-equilibrium, or quasi-determinate evolution) of collective systems, Strevens…has fairly rigorously defined a set of problems of micro state–macro state relations focusing on the inevitably ‘simple behavior’ of ‘complex systems’ that meet appropriate stochastic criteria.—P. D. Skiff, Choice

This book is a serious and ambitious effort to explain how complex systems can exhibit simple behaviour… There is much to be learned in reading [Strevens’s] book. His attempt to solve the puzzle is serious and provocative. He raises interesting and important issues related to the central puzzle and provides insightful analyses of many of these issues. The work deserves the attention of the philosophical community, particularly those who are interested in the philosophical foundations of probability, physics, biology, or economics.—Fred Kronz, Metascience

This impressive book tackles an important question: how can systems of many interacting parts, which thus display low-level complexity, give rise to high-level simplicity? Said another way: how can very complicated and seemingly capricious micro-behavior generate stable, predictable macro-behavior? Complex systems of the sort Strevens deals with are all around us. Thermodynamics and ecology are just the beginning. He makes real progress on a genuinely difficult topic, one that is of central interest to science and to the philosophy of science. He also has a seemingly effortless command of his materials and a sure grip on the conceptual issues. The work is technically sophisticated—he knows his mathematics, probability theory and physics—and elegantly written. This is what good philosophy is all about.—Alan Hájek, Professor of Philosophy, California Institute of Technology

This book is a model of clarity, at both the ‘macro’ and the ‘micro’ levels; the expository style is entertaining without being distracting; the presentation of technical material shows the deft touch of someone who has mastery of it without the inclination to overindulge in it.—Ned Hall, Professor of Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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