Functional Homology and Functional Variation in Evolutionary Cognitive Science

Biological Theory 5 (2):124-135 (2010)
Most cognitive scientists nowadays tend to think that at least some of the mind’s capacities are the product of biological evolution, yet important conceptual problems remain for all of them in order to be able to speak coherently of mental or cognitive systems as having evolved naturally. Two of these important problems concern the articulation of adequate, interesting and empirically useful concepts of homology and variation as applied to cognitive systems. However, systems in cognitive science are usually understood as functional systems of some sort. Thus, talking about functional systems’ being homologous requires one’s having a solid, adequate and empirically articulated concept of functional homology—and the same is true of functional variation. Here I construct an original concept of functional homology that, in my view, adequately systematizes a number of the actual uses of the word ‘functional homology’ in a variety of biological disciplines and in ethology. I also propose a number of criteria for the empirical application of the concept that are analogous to the criteria that are actually used in comparative biology, ethology, and (possibly) molecular developmental genetics. Then I construct a concept of functional variation on the basis of this concept of homology.
Keywords Evolution of mind  Functional systems  Comparative psychology  Ethology
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 9,360
External links
  •   Try with proxy.
  • Through your library Configure
    References found in this work BETA

    View all 6 references

    Citations of this work BETA

    No citations found.

    Similar books and articles
    David B. Resnik (1995). Functional Language and Biological Discovery. Journal for General Philosophy of Science 26 (1):119 - 134.
    Arno Wouters (1995). Viability Explanation. Biology and Philosophy 10 (4):435-457.
    Daniel A. Weiskopf (2011). The Functional Unity of Special Science Kinds. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 62 (2):233 - 258.

    Monthly downloads

    Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart.

    Added to index


    Total downloads

    2 ( #258,237 of 1,088,810 )

    Recent downloads (6 months)

    2 ( #42,743 of 1,088,810 )

    How can I increase my downloads?

    My notes
    Sign in to use this feature

    Start a new thread
    There  are no threads in this forum
    Nothing in this forum yet.