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::: center home >> people >> postdoctoral fellows >> rice

Collin Rice
University of Missouori
Academic Year 2012-13
Mathematics, Idealization, and Noncausal Explanation: Towards a Unified Account

Collin completed his PhD at the University of Missouri in the spring of 2012. The title of his dissertation was “Optimality Explanations: A New Approach”. The dissertation investigates the use of optimality models to provide explanations in biology and economics. It argues that optimality models provide explanations that are often preferable because they are independent of the causes, causal mechanisms, or causal history of a population. As a result, our accounts of explanation and modeling must expand beyond the causal approach. In addition, Collin’s current philosophical interests include the use of idealization and the different roles played by mathematical models in scientific theorizing. His next project will focus on exploring how these topics can be combined to provide a more unified account of noncausal explanation and idealized modeling across the sciences. His recent publications include: “Optimality Explanations: A Plea for an Alternative Approach” Biology and Philosophy (forthcoming), “Concept Empiricism, Content, and Compositionality”, Philosophical Studies (2011), “Massive Modularity, Content-integration, and Language”, Philosophy of Science (2011), and a coauthored paper titled, “Interdisciplinary Modeling: A Case Study of Evolutionary Economics” Biology and Philosophy (2011). Outside of philosophy, Collin enjoys camping, biking, and playing music. He recently took an extended camping trip through ten national parks.


New Position: Asst Professor of Philosophy, Lycoming College

Batterman, R. W. and Rice, C. (forthcoming). “Minimal Model Explanations”, Philosophy of Science.
Rice, C. (forthcoming). “Moving Beyond Causes: Optimality Models and Scientific Explanation”, Noûs, DOI: 10.1111/nous.12042.
Ariew, A., Rice, C. and Rohwer, Y. (forthcoming), “Autonomous Statistical Explanations and Natural Selection”, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
Rohwer, Y. and Rice, C. (2013). “Hypothetical Pattern Idealization and Explanatory Models”, Philosophy of Science, 80: 334-355.


I finished several papers this year including “Concepts as Pluralistic Hybrids”, which is forthcoming in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. I have also just completed a paper on how we can acquire factive understanding from models that fail to accurately represent real-world systems. I am currently a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Irvine in the Logic and Philosophy of Science department. While in Irvine, I am writing a paper that critiques decompositional approaches to modeling and idealization and argues for a new holistic account of the roles idealizations play within scientific models. This paper is part of a larger book project I have started working on concerning modeling, idealization and explanation. Next summer I will be visiting the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy at the Ludwig-Maximilians Universität in Munich. 


This year I got a new job at Bryn Mawr College outside Philadelphia. We are really excited! In addition, I will be visiting the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy this summer to work on two papers on the role of limits in mathematical modeling and on the influence of subjective values on choosing mathematical frameworks. I also published the following papers this year both investigating the nature of scientific understanding: “Factive Scientific Understanding Without Accurate Representation” in Biology and Philosophy and “How Are Models and Explanations Related?” (with Yasha Rohwer) in Erkenntnis. Last summer I visited the LPS department at UCI and am currently working on finishing up the papers I wrote there on idealized modeling and holism.


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