Behavioral traits, the intentional stance, and biological functions

It has been claimed that the intentional stance is necessary to individuate behavioral traits. This thesis, while clearly false, points to two interesting sets of problems concerning biological explanations of behavior: The first is a general in the philosophy of science: the theory-ladenness of observation. The second problem concerns the principles of trait individuation, which is a general problem in philosophy of biology. After discussing some alternatives, I show that one way of individuating the behavioral traits of an organism is by a special use of the concept of biological function, as understood in an enriched causal role (not selected effect) sense. On this view, a behavioral trait is essentially a special kind of regularity, namely a regularity that is produced by some regulatory mechanism. Regulatory mechanisms always require goal states, which can only be provided by functional considerations. As an example from actual (as opposed to folk) science, I examine the case of social behavior in nematodes. I show that the attempt to explain this phenomenon actually transformed it. This supports the view that scientific explanation does not explain an explanandum phenomenon that is given prior to the explanation; rather, the explanandum is changed by the explanation. This means that there could be a plurality of stances that have some heuristic value initially, but which will be abandoned in favor of a functional characterization eventually.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,667
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

41 ( #81,917 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

3 ( #231,316 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.