An organizational account of biological functions

Abstract
In this paper, we develop an organizational account that defines biological functions as causal relations subject to closure in living systems, interpreted as the most typical example of organizationally closed and differentiated self-maintaining systems. We argue that this account adequately grounds the teleological and normative dimensions of functions in the current organization of a system, insofar as it provides an explanation for the existence of the function bearer and, at the same time, identifies in a non-arbitrary way the norms that functions are supposed to obey. Accordingly, we suggest that the organizational account combines the etiological and dispositional perspectives in an integrated theoretical framework. IntroductionDispositional ApproachesEtiological TheoriesBiological Self-maintenance Closure, teleology, and normativityOrganizational differentiationFunctions C1: Contributing to the maintenance of the organization C2: Producing the functional trait Implications and Objections Functional versus useful Dysfunctions, side effects, and accidental contributionsProper functions and selected effectsReproductionRelation with other ‘unitarian’ approachesConclusions
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References found in this work BETA
Mark H. Bickhard (1993). Representational Content in Humans and Machines. Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence 5:285-33.
John Bigelow & Robert Pargetter (1987). Functions. Journal of Philosophy 84 (4):181-196.
Christopher Boorse (1976). Wright on Functions. Philosophical Review 85 (1):70-86.

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Citations of this work BETA
Daniel J. Nicholson (2012). The Concept of Mechanism in Biology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 43 (1):152-163.
Jonathan Birch (2012). Robust Processes and Teleological Language. European Journal for Philosophy of Science 3 (3):299-312.

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