From functional mess to bounded functionality

Minds and Machines 11 (2):239-256 (2001)
Abstract
Some evolutionary psychologists contend that the best way to discover the functions of our present psychological systems is by appealing to the notion of functional mesh, that is, the assumed tight fit between a trait's design and the adaptive problem it is supposed to solve. In this paper, I argue that there exist theoretical considerations and empirical evidence that undermine this assumption of optimal design. Instead, I suggest that cognitive systems are constrained by what I call bounded functionality. This proposal makes use of Jacob's (1977) notion of evolution as a bricoleur and Simon's (1981) idea that problems can have ``satisficing'' solutions. Functional mesh will thus be shown to neglect constraints that are necessary to explain the evolution of psychological mechanisms
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