David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Biology and Philosophy 15 (1):19-38 (2000)
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 the associated task even when they cannot. The conceit, then, is that malfunctions are explicable in terms of historical success. The aim of this paper is to challenge this conceit. My thesis is that the historical approach to functions lacks the resources with which to account for the possibility of malfunctions. If functional types are defined in terms of historical success, then tokens that lack the defining property due to defect, and tokens that have lost the defining property due to disease or damage, are excluded from the functional category. Historically based malfunctions, in consequence, are impossible. The historical approach is no better than its non-historical competitors in accounting for the presumed normativity of functional properties.
|Keywords||generic trait types selected functional types selected functions selection against selection for selection of weak etiological functions|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
Matteo Mossio, Cristian Saborido & Alvaro Moreno (2009). An Organizational Account of Biological Functions. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (4):813-841.
Ulrich Krohs (2009). Functions as Based on a Concept of General Design. Synthese 166 (1):69-89.
Mauro Nervi (2010). Mechanisms, Malfunctions and Explanation in Medicine. Biology and Philosophy 25 (2):215-228.
Sören Häggqvist (2013). Teleosemantics: Etiological Foundations. Philosophy Compass 8 (1):73-83.
Phyllis McKay Illari & Jon Williamson (2010). Function and Organization: Comparing the Mechanisms of Protein Synthesis and Natural Selection. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 41 (3):279-291.
Similar books and articles
William P. Bechtel (1982). Two Common Errors in Explaining Biological and Psychological Phenomena. Philosophy of Science 49 (December):549-574.
Gualtiero Piccinini (2003). Computations and Computers in the Sciences of Mind and Brain. Dissertation. Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh
Hannah Fitsch (2012). (A)E(s)Th(Et)Ics of Brain Imaging. Visibilities and Sayabilities in Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Neuroethics 5 (3):275-283.
Raoul Naroll (1961). Two Solutions to Galton's Problem. Philosophy of Science 28 (1):15-39.
Jesse Hughes (2009). An Artifact is to Use: An Introduction to Instrumental Functions. [REVIEW] Synthese 168 (1):179 - 199.
Christopher Bertram (1990). International Competition in Historical Materialism. New Left Review (183):116-128.
Ron Amundson & George V. Lauder (1994). Function Without Purpose. Biology and Philosophy 9 (4):443-469.
Chang Seong Hong (1998). Natural Kinds and the Identity of Property. Teorema 17 (1):89-98.
G. A. Cohen (1982). Functional Explanation, Consequence Explanation, and Marxism. Inquiry 25 (1):27 – 56.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads50 ( #36,753 of 1,167,998 )
Recent downloads (6 months)3 ( #60,802 of 1,167,998 )
How can I increase my downloads?