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Ecologists use a remarkable range of methods and techniques to understand complex, inherently variable, and functionally diverse entities and processes across a staggering range of spatial, temporal and interactive scales. These multiple perspectives make ecology very different to the exemplar of science often presented by philosophers.
In this book, designed for graduate students and researchers, ecology is put into a new philosophical framework that engages with this inherent pluralism while still placing constraints on the ways that we can investigate and understand nature. The authors begin by exploring the sources of variety in the practice of ecology and how these have led to the current conceptual confusion. They argue that the solution is to adopt the approach of constrained perspectivism and go on to explore the ontological, metaphysical, and epistemological aspects of this position and how it can be used in ecological research and teaching.
Preface and acknowledgements
2. Conceptual confusion in ecology and its causes
3. Causes of ecology's conceptual confusion
4. Finding ourselves in philosophical terms
5. Ecological pragmatism and constrained perspectivism - an introduction
6. Ecological pragmatism and constrained perspectivism - ontology
7. Ecological pragmatism and constrained perspectivism - metaphysics
8. Ecological pragmatism and constrained perspectivism - epistemology
9. Ecological pragmatism and constrained perspectivism - a summary
10. The practice of constrained perspectivism in ecology
11. What constrained perspectivism offers to the teaching of ecology
12. The heroic handy man and the future of ecology
Glossary of philosophical terms
Bill Reiners has practised ecology for 45 years. His practice has primarily been focused at the ecosystem level, more specifically with biogeochemical phenomena, but he has also been interested in vegetation patterns across landscapes and the nature of disturbance and recovery in vegetation and ecosystems. Jeff Lockwood has practised ecology for 25 years.
"[...] a valuable introductory account of philosophy. The authors' arguments show clarity and are illustrated with simple examples. There is also a useful glossary of philosophical terms. I am sure many biology students will welcome this text as a guide through unfamiliar territory."
- The Biologist