David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 34 (4):633-668 (2003)
I argue that there are at least four different ways in which the term ‘function’ is used in connection with the study of living organisms, namely: (1) function as (mere) activity, (2) function as biological role, (3) function as biological advantage, and (4) function as selected effect. Notion (1) refers to what an item does by itself; (2) refers to the contribution of an item or activity to a complex activity or capacity of an organism; (3) refers to the value for the organism of an item having a certain character rather than another; (4) refers to the way in which a trait acquired and has maintained its current share in the population. The recognition of a separate notion of function as biological advantage solves the problem of the indeterminate reference situation that has been raised against a counterfactual analysis of function, and emphasizes the importance of counterfactual comparison in the explanatory practice of organismal biology. This reveals a neglected problem in the philosophy of biology, namely that of accounting for the insights provided.
|Keywords||function functional explanation counterfactual comparison survival value forward looking account|
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Thomas A. C. Reydon (2009). Gene Names as Proper Names of Individuals: An Assessment. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (2):409-432.
Justin Garson (2012). Function, Selection, and Construction in the Brain. Synthese 189 (3):451-481.
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