The first examination in almost a decade of issues in the philosophy of ecology that have been a source of controversy since the emergence of ecology as an explicit scientific discipline. The controversies revolve around the idea of a balance of nature, the possibility of general ecological knowledge and the role of model-building in ecology.
Originally published in 2004.
Introduction; Acknowledgements; 1. The struggle for existence; 2. The roots of controversy; 3. Must there be a balance of nature?; 4. The pursuit of ecological generality; 5. Model building: a controversial craft; 6. Theoretical explanation and fundamental laws; 7. The explanatory continuum; 8. Theories, models and explanatory tools; Epilogue; References; Index.
'... A book of high scholarly merit ... To date there have been a number of works in the philosophy of ecology written or co-authored by ecologists, few of which have shown anything like the level of philosophical sophistication of this work. Cooper knows the full range of available philosophical options and deploys them intelligently ... He uses philosophy to clarify ecological debate and display the real choices we face, not to win arguments by the use of false dichotomies. At the same time, Cooper knows more than enough about ecology to convince his scientific audience that he is in touch with the real issues that confront them.' Paul E. Griffiths, University of Pittsburgh 'Greg Cooper's [book] is a must read for those interested in the history and philosophy of ecology and in topics like laws of nature, scientific explanation, and mathematical modelling. If you want to explore some of the metaphysical and methodological challenges that face ecology, there is no better place to go ... On every page there are interesting ideas presented but which are excitingly controversial ... With important exceptions notwithstanding, ecology has been largely ignored by philosophers of biology (though not by historians). Cooper's book will I believe help remedy this situation. It is a great resource for struggling with the fascinating controversies in ecology and is thankfully controversial itself.' Biology and Philosophy