Darwin's causal pluralism

Biology and Philosophy 11 (1):1-20 (1996)
Historians of Biology have divided nineteenth century naturalists into two basic camps, Functionalists and Structuralists. This division is supposed to demarcate the alternative causal presuppositions working beneath research programs. If one is functionally oriented, then organic form will be contingent upon the causal powers of the environment. If structurally oriented, one argues for nonfunctional mechanisms (e.g., internal laws of growth) to account for organic form.Traditionally, Darwin has been grouped with the functionalists because natural selection (an adaptational mechanism) plays the prominent role in shaping organic form. In this paper, I sketch the dichotomy of functionalism versus structuralism and then argue that Darwin cannot be characterized adequately with this dichotomy. I argue that Darwin can incorporate both causal stories because he makes two important modifications to the traditional metaphysical presuppositions. I then offer some brief reflections on the import of Darwin's causal pluralism for the Philosophy of Science.
Keywords Darwin  functionalism  structuralism  causal pluralism
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DOI 10.1007/BF00127469
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Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.David Hume - 2007 - In Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Philosophical Review. Blackwell. pp. 338-339.
Animal Species and Evolution.Ernst Mayr - 1963 - Belknap of Harvard University Press.
Richard Owen's Vertebrate Archetype.Nicholas Rupke - 1993 - Isis: A Journal of the History of Science 84:231-251.

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