The propensity interpretation of fitness

Philosophy of Science 46 (2):263-286 (1979)
The concept of "fitness" is a notion of central importance to evolutionary theory. Yet the interpretation of this concept and its role in explanations of evolutionary phenomena have remained obscure. We provide a propensity interpretation of fitness, which we argue captures the intended reference of this term as it is used by evolutionary theorists. Using the propensity interpretation of fitness, we provide a Hempelian reconstruction of explanations of evolutionary phenomena, and we show why charges of circularity which have been levelled against explanations in evolutionary theory are mistaken. Finally, we provide a definition of natural selection which follows from the propensity interpretation of fitness, and which handles all the types of selection discussed by biologists, thus improving on extant definitions
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DOI 10.1086/288865
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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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