University of Pittsburgh
Primary Faculty

Sandra Mitchell

Professor; Secondary Faculty, Department of Philosophy


1017 CL
Web site
My research is on epistemological and metaphysical issues in the philosophy of science. My interests have centered on scientific explanations of complex behavior, and how we might best represent multi-level, multi-component complex systems. I have published articles on functional explanation, units of selection in evolutionary biology, sociobiology, biological complexity and self-organization, and scientific laws. Current interests include emergence, the methodological consequences of biological robustness and problems in representing deep uncertainty for policy decisions.


PhD, history and philosophy of science, University of Pittsburgh, 1987

MSc (with a Mark of Distinction), logic, philosophy, and scientific method; London School of Economics, 1975

BA (with honors), philosophy, Pitzer College, Claremont, California, 1973

Selected Courses Taught

Recent Topics in Philosophy of Science: Emergence

Morality and Medicine

Darwinism and Its Critics

Philosophy of Biology

Selected/Recent Publications

Unsimple Truths: Science, Complexity and Policy, University of Chicago Press, 2009 (A revised version of Komplexitaeten: Warum Wir Erst Anfangen Die Welt Zu Verstehen, 2008, Suhrkamp Verlag).

Biological Complexity and Integrative Pluralism, Cambridge University Press 2003.

Ceteris Parisbus Laws, edited by John Earman, Clark Glymour, and Sandra Mitchell, Erkenntnis, 2002.

"Emergence: logical, functional and dynamical" Synthese, 2010.

"Complexity and Explanation in the Social Sciences" in C. Mantzavinos (ed.) Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Cambridge University Press 2009.

"Exporting Causal Knowledge in Evolutionary and Developmental Biology," Philosophy of Science, December 2008.

"Explaining Complex Behavior" and "Taming Causal Complexity" in K. Kendler and J. Parnas (eds.), Philosophical Issues in Psychiatry: Explanation, Phenomenology and Nosology, Johns Hopkins Press, October 2008

"Integration without Unification: An Argument for Pluralism in the Biological Sciences", coauthored with Michael R. Dietrich, American Naturalist, 2006. Vol. 168, pp. S73-S79.

"Modularity: More than a Buzzword: Essay Review," Biological Theory, 2005. Vol. 1, Issue 1, pp. 98-101.

"Dimensions of Scientific Law," Philosophy of Science, June 2000, pp. 242-265.

Working Papers

“Is the Social Insect Colony a Devo-Evo Superorganism?” (with Robert E. Page, Jr. and Manfred Laubichler)

Knowing the Social (with Wolfgang Streeck)

Professional Memberships/Offices

• Governing Council, International Society for History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology, 2005-09

• Governing Board, Philosophy of Science Association, 2006-present

• Editorial Board, Philosophy of Science

• Editorial Board, The Pluralist

• Editorial Board, History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences