Teleofunctions and oncomice: The case for revising Varner's value theory

Environmental Ethics 26 (2):171-188 (2004)
The view that organisms deserve moral respect because they have their own purposes is often grounded in a specification of the biological functions that the organism has. One way to identify such functions, adopted by Gary Varner, is to determine the etiology of some behavior based on the evolution of the structures enabling it. This view suffers from some unacceptable problems, including that some organisms with profound defects will by definition have a welfare interest in their defects. For example, this view entails that the patented oncomice, intentionally engineered and bred for a genetic defect that leads to extremely high incidence of cancer, would have a welfare interest in the development of tumors. The systems-based theory of biological functions, which refers not to the evolution of structures but rather to their role in the organism, escapes these problems, and shows how a theory of an organism’s welfare interest in its purposes can be grounded in a sound naturalistic approach. This approach also has some fruitful corollaries, including an elegant theory of why species may require special moral regard
Keywords Applied Philosophy  General Interest
Categories (categorize this paper)
ISBN(s) 0163-4275
DOI 10.5840/enviroethics200426228
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 24,463
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

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Craig DeLancey (2012). An Ecological Concept of Wilderness. Ethics and the Environment 17 (1):25-44.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

9 ( #439,856 of 1,925,533 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

1 ( #418,152 of 1,925,533 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.