Proper environment and the SEP account of biological function

Synthese 190 (9):1503-1517 (2013)
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 this important feature. However, I suggest that this problem can be overcome by the application of a new strategy for specifying proper environment that is grounded in the operation of natural selection and I conclude by offering a first approximation of such an account.
Keywords Biological function  Serendipitous malfunction  Survival enhancing propensity
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-011-9889-5
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Robert C. Cummins (1975). Functional Analysis. Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.

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