Synthese 190 (9):1503-1517 (2013)

Michael Bertrand
Ohio State University
The survival enhancing propensity (SEP) account has a crucial role to play in the analysis of proper function. However, a central feature of the account, its specification of the proper environment to which functions are relativized, is seriously underdeveloped. In this paper, I argue that existent accounts of proper environment fail because they either allow too many or too few characters to count as proper functions. While SEP accounts retain their promise, they are unworkable because of their inability to specify this important feature. However, I suggest that this problem can be overcome by the application of a new strategy for specifying proper environment that is grounded in the operation of natural selection and I conclude by offering a first approximation of such an account.
Keywords Biological function  Serendipitous malfunction  Survival enhancing propensity
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2013
DOI 10.1007/s11229-011-9889-5
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
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

Warrant and Proper Function.Alvin Plantinga - 1993 - Oxford University Press.
Functional Analysis.Robert Cummins - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.

View all 18 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Teleological Semantics.Mark Rowlands - 1997 - Mind 106 (422):279-304.
Reliabilism, Proper Function, and Serendipitous Malfunction.Adrian Bardon - 2007 - Philosophical Investigations 30 (1):45–64.
Fitness and Function.D. M. Walsh - 1996 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (4):553-574.
Four Notions of Biological Function.Arno G. Wouters - 2002 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 34 (4):633-668.
Functional Analysis and Proper Functions.Paul E. Griffiths - 1993 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44 (3):409-422.
In Defense of Proper Functions.Ruth Garrett Millikan - 1989 - Philosophy of Science 56 (June):288-302.
Dreaming is Not an Adaptation.Owen Flanagan - 2000 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 23 (6):936-939.
Proper Function and Recent Selection.Peter H. Schwartz - 1999 - Philosophy of Science 66 (3):210-222.
Biological Function, Selection, and Reduction.Richard N. Manning - 1997 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 48 (1):69-82.


Added to PP index

Total views
531 ( #14,293 of 2,454,704 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
46 ( #17,352 of 2,454,704 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes