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  1. Marshall Abrams (2009). Fitness “Kinematics”: Biological Function, Altruism, and Organism–Environment Development. Biology and Philosophy 24 (4):487-504.
    It’s recently been argued that biological fitness can’t change over the course of an organism’s life as a result of organisms’ behaviors. However, some characterizations of biological function and biological altruism tacitly or explicitly assume that an effect of a trait can change an organism’s fitness. In the first part of the paper, I explain that the core idea of changing fitness can be understood in terms of conditional probabilities defined over sequences of events in an organism’s life. The result (...)
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  2. Peter Achinstein (1977). Function Statements. Philosophy of Science 44 (3):341-367.
    An examination of difficulties in three standard accounts of functions leads to the suggestion that sentences of the form "the function of x is to do y" are used to make a variety of different claims, all of which involve a means-end relationship and the idea of design, or use, or benefit. The analysis proposed enables us to see what is right and also wrong with accounts that analyze the meaning of function statements in terms of good consequences, goals, and (...)
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  3. Colin Allen, Teleological Notions in Biology.
    Teleological terms such as "function" and "design" appear frequently in the biological sciences. Examples of teleological claims include: A (biological) function of stotting by antelopes is to communicate to predators that they have been detected. Eagles' wings are (naturally) designed for soaring. Teleological notions were commonly associated with the pre-Darwinian view that the biological realm provides evidence of conscious design by a supernatural creator. Even after creationist viewpoints were rejected by most biologists there remained various grounds for concern about the (...)
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  4. Colin Allen & Marc Bekoff (1995). Biological Function, Adaptation, and Natural Design. Philosophy of Science 62 (4):609-622.
    Recently something close to a consensus about the best way to naturalize the notion of biological function appears to be emerging. Nonetheless, teleological notions in biology remain controversial. In this paper we provide a naturalistic analysis for the notion of natural design. Many authors assume that natural design should be assimilated directly to function. Others find the notion problematic because it suggests that evolution is a directed process. We argue that both of these views are mistaken. Our naturalistic account does (...)
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  5. Colin Allen, Marc Bekoff & George V. Lauder (eds.) (1998). Nature's Purposes: Analyses of Function and Design in Biology. The Mit Press.
  6. Ron Amundson & George V. Lauder (1994). Function Without Purpose. Biology and Philosophy 9 (4):443-469.
    Philosophers of evolutionary biology favor the so-called etiological concept of function according to which the function of a trait is its evolutionary purpose, defined as the effect for which that trait was favored by natural selection. We term this the selected effect (SE) analysis of function. An alternative account of function was introduced by Robert Cummins in a non-evolutionary and non-purposive context. Cummins''s account has received attention but little support from philosophers of biology. This paper will show that a similar (...)
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  7. Andre Ariew, Robert C. Cummins & Mark Perlman (eds.) (2002). Functions: New Essays in the Philosophy of Psychology and Biology. Oxford University Press.
    But what are functions? Here, 15 leading scholars of philosophy of psychology and philosophy of biology present new essays on functions.
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  8. Francisco J. Ayala (1970). Teleological Explanations in Evolutionary Biology. Philosophy of Science 37 (1):1-15.
    The ultimate source of explanation in biology is the principle of natural selection. Natural selection means differential reproduction of genes and gene combinations. It is a mechanistic process which accounts for the existence in living organisms of end-directed structures and processes. It is argued that teleological explanations in biology are not only acceptable but indeed indispensable. There are at least three categories of biological phenomena where teleological explanations are appropriate.
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  9. Kenneth K. Baublys (1975). Comments on Some Recent Analyses of Functional Statements in Biology. Philosophy of Science 42 (4):469-486.
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  10. Timothy M. Beardsley (2013). Functions for Genomics and Philosophy. Bioscience 63 (6):415-415.
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  11. William P. Bechtel & Jennifer Mundale (1996). Integrating Neuroscience, Psychology, and Evolutionary Biology Through a Teleological Conception of Function. Minds And Machines 6 (4):481-505.
    The idea of integrating evolutionary biology and psychology has great promise, but one that will be compromised if psychological functions are conceived too abstractly and neuroscience is not allowed to play a contructive role. We argue that the proper integration of neuroscience, psyychology, and evolutionary biology requires a telelogical as opposed to a merely componential analysis of function. A teleological analysis is required in neuroscience itself; we point to traditional and curent research methods in neuroscience, which make critical use of (...)
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  12. Morton Beckner (1969). Function and Teleology. Journal of the History of Biology 2 (1):151 - 164.
    The view of teleology sketched in the above remarks seems to me to offer a piece of candy to both the critics and guardians of teleology. The critics want to defend against a number of things: the importation of unverifiable theological or metaphysical doctrines into the sciences; the idea that goals somehow act in favor of their won realization; and the view that biological systems require for their study concepts and patterns of explanation unlike anything employed in the physical sciences. (...)
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  13. Mark Bedau (1992). Where's the Good in Teleology? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52 (4):781-806.
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  14. Michael Bertrand (2013). Proper Environment and the SEP Account of Biological Function. Synthese 190 (9):1503-1517.
    The survival enhancing propensity (SEP) account has a crucial role to play in the analysis of proper function. However, a central feature of the account, its specification of the proper environment to which functions are relativized, is seriously underdeveloped. In this paper, I argue that existent accounts of proper environment fail because they either allow too many or too few characters to count as proper functions. While SEP accounts retain their promise, they are unworkable because of their inability to specify (...)
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  15. John Bigelow & Robert Pargetter (1987). Functions. Journal of Philosophy 84 (4):181-196.
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  16. Jonathan Birch (2012). Robust Processes and Teleological Language. European Journal for Philosophy of Science 3 (3):299-312.
    I consider some hitherto unexplored examples of teleological language in the sciences. In explicating these examples, I aim to show (a) that such language is not the sole preserve of the biological sciences, and (b) that not all such talk is reducible to the ascription of functions. In chemistry and biochemistry, scientists explaining molecular rearrangements and protein folding talk informally of molecules rearranging “in order to” maximize stability. Evolutionary biologists, meanwhile, often speak of traits evolving “in order to” optimize some (...)
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  17. Christopher Boorse (1976). Wright on Functions. Philosophical Review 85 (1):70-86.
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  18. Stefano Borgo, Riichiro Mizoguchi & Barry Smith (2011). On the Ontology of Functions. Applied Ontology 6 (2):99-104.
    This special issue of Applied Ontology is devoted to the foundation, the comparison and the application of functional theories in all areas, with particular attention to the biological and engineering domains. It includes theoretical and technical contributions related to the description, characterization, and application of functions.
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  19. David J. Buller (1998). Etiological Theories of Function: A Geographical Survey. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 13 (4):505-527.
    Formulations of the essential commitment of the etiological theory of functions have varied significantly, with some individual authors' formulations even varying from one place to another. The logical geography of these various formulations is different from what is standardly assumed; for they are not stylistic variants of the same essential commitment, but stylistic variants of two non-equivalent versions of the etiological theory. I distinguish these “strong” and “weak” versions of the etiological theory (which differ with respect to the role of (...)
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  20. Rich Cameron (2004). How to Be a Realist About Sui Generis Teleology Yet Feel at Home in the 21st Century. The Monist 87 (1):72-95.
    The reigning orthodoxy on biological teleology assumes that teleology either must be reduced (or eliminated) or it depends on a supernatural agent. The dominant orthodox sect rejects supernaturalism and eliminitivism, and, given the poverty of competing views has been allowed to become complacent about the adequacy of favored reductivist accounts. These are beset by more serious problems than proponents acknowledge. Moreover, the assumption underlying orthodoxy is false; there is an alternative scientifically and philosophically plausible naturalistic account of teleology. We can (...)
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  21. John Canfield (1965). Teleological Explanation in Biology: A Reply. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 15 (60):327-331.
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  22. John Canfield (1964). Teleological Explanation in Biology. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 14 (56):285-295.
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  23. John V. Canfield (1966). Purpose in Nature. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.,Prentice-Hall.
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  24. Massimiliano Carrara & Pieter E. Vermaas (2009). The Fine-Grained Metaphysics of Artifactual and Biological Functional Kinds. Synthese 169 (1):125 - 143.
    In this paper we consider the emerging position in metaphysics that artifact functions characterize real kinds of artifacts. We analyze how it can circumvent an objection by David Wiggins (Sameness and substance renewed, 2001, 87) and then argue that this position, in comparison to expert judgments, amounts to an interesting fine-grained metaphysics: taking artifact functions as (part of the) essences of artifacts leads to distinctions between principles of activity of artifacts that experts in technology have not yet made. We show, (...)
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  25. Wayne Christensen (1996). A Complex Systems Theory of Teleology. Biology and Philosophy 11 (3):301-320.
    Part I [sections 2–4] draws out the conceptual links between modern conceptions of teleology and their Aristotelian predecessor, briefly outlines the mode of functional analysis employed to explicate teleology, and develops the notion of cybernetic organisation in order to distinguish teleonomic and teleomatic systems. Part II is concerned with arriving at a coherent notion of intentional control. Section 5 argues that intentionality is to be understood in terms of the representational properties of cybernetic systems. Following from this, section 6 argues (...)
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  26. Carl F. Craver (2001). Role Functions, Mechanisms, and Hierarchy. Philosophy of Science 68 (1):53-74.
    Many areas of science develop by discovering mechanisms and role functions. Cummins' (1975) analysis of role functions-according to which an item's role function is a capacity of that item that appears in an analytic explanation of the capacity of some containing system-captures one important sense of "function" in the biological sciences and elsewhere. Here I synthesize Cummins' account with recent work on mechanisms and causal/mechanical explanation. The synthesis produces an analysis of specifically mechanistic role functions, one that uses the characteristic (...)
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  27. Robert C. Cummins (2002). Neo-Teleology. In Andre Ariew, Robert E. Cummins & Mark Perlman (eds.), Functions: New Essays in the Philosophy of Psychology and Biology. Oxford University Press.
    Neo-teleology is the two part thesis that, e.g., (i) we have hearts because of what hearts are for: Hearts are for blood circulation, not the production of a pulse, so hearts are there--animals have them--because their function is to circulate the blood, and (ii) that (i) is explained by natural selection: traits spread through populations because of their functions. This paper attacks this popular doctrine. The presence of a biological trait or structure is not explained by appeal to its function. (...)
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  28. Robert C. Cummins (1975). Functional Analysis. Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.
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  29. Robert Cummins & Martin Roth (2010). Traits Have Not Evolved to Function the Way They Do Because of a Past Advantage. In Francisco José Ayala & Robert Arp (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology. Wiley-Blackwell Pub.. 72--88.
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  30. Paul Sheldon Davies (2000). The Nature of Natural Norms: Why Selected Functions Are Systemic Capacity Functions. Noûs 34 (1):85–107.
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  31. Paul Sheldon Davies (2000). Malfunctions. Biology and Philosophy 15 (1):19-38.
    A persistent boast of the historical approach to functions is that functional properties are normative. The claim is that a token trait retains its functional status even when it is defective, diseased, or damaged and consequently unable to perform the relevant task. This is because historical functional categories are defined in terms of some sort of historical success -- success in natural selection, typically -- which imposes a norm upon the performance of descendent tokens. Descendents thus are supposed to perform (...)
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  32. Paul Sheldon Davies (1994). Troubles for Direct Proper Functions. Noûs 28 (3):363-381.
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  33. Craig S. Delancey (2006). Ontology and Teleofunctions: A Defense and Revision of the Systematic Account of Teleological Explanation. Synthese 150 (1):69 - 98.
    I defend and revise the systematic account of normative functions (teleofunctions), as recently developed by Gerhard Schlosser and by W. D. Christensen and M. H. Bickhard. This account proposes that teleofunctions are had by structures that play certain kinds of roles in complex systems. This theory is an alternative to the historical etiological account of teleofunctions, developed by Ruth Millikan and others. The historical etiological account is susceptible to a general ontological problem that has been under-appreciated, and that offers important (...)
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  34. Benoni B. Edin (2008). Assigning Biological Functions: Making Sense of Causal Chains. Synthese 161 (2):203 - 218.
    A meaningful distinction can be made between functions and mere effects in biological systems without resorting to teleological arguments: (i) biological systems must cope with a multitude of problems or they will cease to exist; (ii) the solutions to these problems invariably depend on circular causal chains (“feedback loops”); and (iii) biological functions are attributes of elements in biological systems that have an effect which, by contributing to the correcting behavior of a feedback control system, assists in solving a biological (...)
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  35. Claus Emmeche (2002). The Chicken and the Orphean Egg. Sign Systems Studies 30 (1):15-31.
    A central aspect of the relation between biosemiotics and biology is investigated by asking: Is a biological concept of function intrinsically related to a biosemiotic concept of sign action, and vice versa? A biological notion of function (as some process or part that serves some purpose in the context of maintenance and reproduction of the whole organism) is discussed in the light of the attempt to provide an understanding of life processes as being of a semiotic nature, i.e., constituted by (...)
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  36. Harry G. Frankfurt & Brian Poole (1966). Functional Analyses in Biology. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 17 (1):69-72.
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  37. K. W. M. Fulford (2000). Teleology Without Tears: Naturalism, Neo-Naturalism, and Evaluationism in the Analysis of Function Statements in Biology (and a Bet on the Twenty-First Century). Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 7 (1):77-94.
  38. Justin Garson (2012). Function, Selection, and Construction in the Brain. Synthese 189 (3):451-481.
    A common misunderstanding of the selected effects theory of function is that natural selection operating over an evolutionary time scale is the only functionbestowing process in the natural world. This construal of the selected effects theory conflicts with the existence and ubiquity of neurobiological functions that are evolutionary novel, such as structures underlying reading ability. This conflict has suggested to some that, while the selected effects theory may be relevant to some areas of evolutionary biology, its relevance to neuroscience is (...)
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  39. Justin Garson (2011). Selected Effects and Causal Role Functions in the Brain: The Case for an Etiological Approach to Neuroscience. Biology and Philosophy 26 (4):547-565.
    Despite the voluminous literature on biological functions produced over the last 40 years, few philosophers have studied the concept of function as it is used in neuroscience. Recently, Craver (forthcoming; also see Craver 2001) defended the causal role theory against the selected effects theory as the most appropriate theory of function for neuroscience. The following argues that though neuroscientists do study causal role functions, the scope of that theory is not as universal as claimed. Despite the strong prima facie superiority (...)
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  40. Jean Gayon & Armand de Ricqlès (eds.) (2010). Les Fonctions: Des Organismes aux Artefacts. Presses Universitaires de France.
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  41. Pierre-Luc Germain, Emanuele Ratti & Federico Boem (Forthcoming). Junk or Functional DNA? ENCODE and the Function Controversy. Biology and Philosophy:1-25.
    In its last round of publications in September 2012, the Encyclopedia Of DNA Elements (ENCODE) assigned a biochemical function to most of the human genome, which was taken up by the media as meaning the end of ‘Junk DNA’. This provoked a heated reaction from evolutionary biologists, who among other things claimed that ENCODE adopted a wrong and much too inclusive notion of function, making its dismissal of junk DNA merely rhetorical. We argue that this criticism rests on misunderstandings concerning (...)
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  42. Michael T. Ghiselin (2001). Can Biologists and Philosophers See Eye to Eye on Function? [REVIEW] History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 23 (2):279 - 284.
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  43. Santiago Ginnobili (2009). Adaptación y función. Ludus Vitalis (31):3-24.
    The scientific revolution of the XVII siècle is normally described as erasing final causes and the teleology of physics. Nevertheless, the functional language plays a central role in certain areas of biological practice. This is why many philosophers have tried to explicate the concept of function, sometimes to defend the relevance of its use, some other times to show that it is merely a way of speaking that could be easily eliminated without any relevant information loss. The principal purpose of (...)
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  44. Peter Godfrey-Smith (1994). A Modern History Theory of Functions. Noûs 28 (3):344-362.
    Biological functions are dispositions or effects a trait has which explain the recent maintenance of the trait under natural selection. This is the "modern history" approach to functions. The approach is historical because to ascribe a function is to make a claim about the past, but the relevant past is the recent past; modern history rather than ancient.
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  45. A. Goldstein (2002). Nature's Purposes: Analyses of Function and Design in Biology. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 80 (1):126-128.
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  46. R. Goode & P. E. Griffiths (1995). The Misuse of Sober's Selection for/Selection of Distinction. Biology and Philosophy 10 (1):99-108.
    Elliott Sober''s selection for/selection of distinction has been widely used to clarify the idea that some properties of organisms are side-effects of selection processes. It has also been used, however, to choose between different descriptions of an evolutionary product when assigning biological functions to that product. We suggest that there is a characteristic error in these uses of the distinction. Complementary descriptions of function are misrepresented as mutually excluding one another. This error arises from a failure to appreciate that selection (...)
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  47. Peter J. Graham (2011). Intelligent Design and Selective History: Two Sources of Purpose and Plan. Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion 3:67-88.
  48. Paul E. Griffiths (1993). Functional Analysis and Proper Functions. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44 (3):409-422.
    The etiological approach to ‘proper functions’ in biology can be strengthened by relating it to Robert Cummins' general treatment of function ascription. The proper functions of a biological trait are the functions it is assigned in a Cummins-style functional explanation of the fitness of ancestors. These functions figure in selective explanations of the trait. It is also argued that some recent etiological theories include inaccurate accounts of selective explanation in biology. Finally, a generalization of the notion of selective explanation allows (...)
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  49. Paul Edmund Griffiths (2006). Function, Homology, and Character Individuation. Philosophy of Science 73 (1):1-25.
    Many philosophers believe that 1) most uses of functional language in biology make implicit reference to natural selection and 2) the fundamental way in which biologists identify parts and processes in organisms is by their selected function(s). Both these claims are mistaken. Much functional language in biology refers to actual causal roles, and if this were not so, biology would be impossible. The extensive biological literature on the ‘character concept’ focuses on another principle of biological identity, namely homology. I outline (...)
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  50. Rolf Gruner (1966). Teleological and Functional Explanations. Mind 75 (300):516-526.
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