Matthen and Ariew's obituary for fitness: Reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated [Book Review]
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Biology and Philosophy 20 (2-3):343-353 (2005)
Philosophers of biology have been absorbed by the problem of defining evolutionary fitness since Darwin made it central to biological explanation. The apparent problem is obvious. Define fitness as some biologists implicitly do, in terms of actual survival and reproduction, and the principle of natural selection turns into an empty tautology: those organisms which survive and reproduce in larger numbers, survive and reproduce in larger numbers. Accordingly, many writers have sought to provide a definition for ‘fitness’ which avoid this outcome. In particular the definition of fitness as a probabilistic propensity has been widely favored.1 Others, recognizing that no definition both correct and complete can actually be provided, have accepted the consequence that the leading principle of the theory is a definitional truth and attempted to mitigate the impact of this outcome for the empirical character of the theory.2 Still others have argued that ‘fitness’ is properly viewed as a term undefined in the theory of natural selection (on the model of mass—a term undefined in Newtonian mechanics).3 But few have contemplated the solution to this problem proposed by Mohan Matthen and André Ariew (hereafter, MA), in..
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