Functional analysis and proper functions

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 an analysis of the proper functions of human artifacts.
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/44.3.409
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Arno G. Wouters (2003). Four Notions of Biological Function. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 34 (4):633-668.

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