Biological Organization and Cross-Generation Functions

The organizational account of biological functions interprets functions as contributions of a trait to the maintenance of the organization that, in turn, maintains the trait. As has been recently argued, however, the account seems unable to provide a unified grounding for both intra- and cross-generation functions, since the latter do not contribute to the maintenance of the same organization which produces them. To face this ‘ontological problem’, a splitting account has been proposed, according to which the two kinds of functions require distinct organizational definitions. In this article, we propose a solution for the ontological problem, by arguing that intra- and cross-generation functions can be said to contribute in the same way to the maintenance of the biological organization, characterized in terms of organizational self-maintenance. As a consequence, we suggest maintaining a unified organizational account of biological functions
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/axq034
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Daniel J. Nicholson (2013). Organisms ≠ Machines. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):669-678.
Ulrich Krohs (2015). Can Functionality in Evolving Networks Be Explained Reductively? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 53:94-101.

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