Ernst Mayr's 'ultimate/proximate' distinction reconsidered and reconstructed

Biology and Philosophy 18 (4):553-565 (2003)
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It's been 41 years since the publication of Ernst Mayr's Cause and Effect in Biology wherein Mayr most clearly develops his version of the influential distinction between ultimate and proximate causes in biology. In critically assessing Mayr's essay I uncover false statements and red-herrings about biological explanation. Nevertheless, I argue to uphold an analogue of the ultimate/proximate distinction as it refers to two different kinds of explanations, one dynamical the other statistical.



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André Ariew
University of Missouri, Columbia

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Philosophy of Biology.Elliott Sober - 1993 - Westview Press.
Functions.John Bigelow & Robert Pargetter - 1987 - Journal of Philosophy 84 (4):181-196.
The Nature of Selection: Evolutionary Theory in Philosophical Focus.Elliott Sober - 1987 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 38 (3):397-399.

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