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Troubles for direct proper functions

Noûs 28 (3):363-381 (1994)

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  1. Ascribing Functions to Technical Artefacts: A Challenge to Etiological Accounts of Functions.Pieter E. Vermaas & Wybo Houkes - 2003 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 54 (2):261-289.
    The aim of this paper is to evaluate etiological accounts of functions for the domain of technical artefacts. Etiological theories ascribe functions to items on the basis of the causal histories of those items; they apply relatively straightforwardly to the biological domain, in which neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory provides a well-developed and generally accepted background for describing the causal histories of biological items. Yet there is no well-developed and generally accepted theory for describing the causal history of artefacts, so the application (...)
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  • Causal Theories of Mental Content.Robert D. Rupert - 2008 - Philosophy Compass 3 (2):353–380.
    Causal theories of mental content (CTs) ground certain aspects of a concept's meaning in the causal relations a concept bears to what it represents. Section 1 explains the problems CTs are meant to solve and introduces terminology commonly used to discuss these problems. Section 2 specifies criteria that any acceptable CT must satisfy. Sections 3, 4, and 5 critically survey various CTs, including those proposed by Fred Dretske, Jerry Fodor, Ruth Garrett Millikan, David Papineau, Dennis Stampe, Dan Ryder, and the (...)
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  • Mental Representations and Millikan’s Theory of Intentional Content: Does Biology Chase Causality?Robert D. Rupert - 1999 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 37 (1):113-140.
    In her landmark book, Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories (Millikan1984),1 Ruth Garrett Millikan utilizes the idea of a biological function to solve philosophical problems associated with the phenomena of language, thought, and meaning. Language and thought are activities of biological organisms, according to Millikan, and we should treat them as such when trying to answer related philosophical questions. Of special interest is Millikan’s treatment of intentionality. Here Millikan employs the notion of a biological function to explain what it is (...)
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  • Adaptation and Moral Realism.William F. Harms - 2000 - Biology and Philosophy 15 (5):699-712.
    Conventional wisdom has it that evolution makes a sham of morality, even if morality is an adaptation. I disagree. I argue that our best current adaptationist theory of meaning offers objective truth conditionsfor signaling systems of all sorts. The objectivity is, however, relative to species – specifically to the adaptive history of the signaling system in question. While evolution may not provide the kind of species independent objective standards that (e.g.) Kantians desire, this should be enough for the practical work (...)
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  • An Organizational Account of Biological Functions.Matteo Mossio, Cristian Saborido & Alvaro Moreno - 2009 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (4):813-841.
    In this paper, we develop an organizational account that defines biological functions as causal relations subject to closure in living systems, interpreted as the most typical example of organizationally closed and differentiated self-maintaining systems. We argue that this account adequately grounds the teleological and normative dimensions of functions in the current organization of a system, insofar as it provides an explanation for the existence of the function bearer and, at the same time, identifies in a non-arbitrary way the norms that (...)
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  • Genes `For' Phenotypes: A Modern History View.Jonathan Michael Kaplan & Massimo Pigliucci - 2001 - Biology and Philosophy 16 (2):189--213.
    We attempt to improve the understanding of the notion of agene being `for a phenotypic trait or traits. Considering theimplicit functional ascription of one thing being `for another,we submit a more restrictive version of `gene for talk.Accordingly, genes are only to be thought of as being forphenotypic traits when good evidence is available that thepresence or prevalence of the gene in a population is the resultof natural selection on that particular trait, and that theassociation between that trait and the gene (...)
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