Synthese 166 (1):21 - 40 (2009)
|Abstract||Organisms' environments are thought to play a fundamental role in determining their fitness and hence in natural selection. Existing intuitive conceptions of environment are sufficient for biological practice. I argue, however, that attempts to produce a general characterization of fitness and natural selection are incomplete without the help of general conceptions of what conditions are included in the environment. Thus there is a "problem of the reference environment"—more particularly, problems of specifying principles which pick out those environmental conditions which determine fitness. I distinguish various reference environment problems and propose solutions to some of them. While there has been a limited amount of work on problems concerning what I call "subenvironments", there appears to be no earlier work on problems of what I call the "whole environment". The first solution I propose for a whole environment problem specifies the overall environment for natural selection on a set of biological types present in a population over a specified period of time. The second specifies an environment relevant to extinction of types in a population; this kind of environment is especially relevant to certain kinds of long-term evolution|
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