Biology and Philosophy 5 (4):401-415 (1990)
Within evolutionary biology a distinction is frequently made between proximate and ultimate causes. One apparently plausible interpretation of this dichotomy is that proximate causes concern processes occurring during the life of an organism while ultimate causes refer to those processes (particularly natural selection) that shaped its genome. But ultimate causes are not sought through historical investigations of an organisms lineage. Rather, explanations referring to ultimate causes typically emerge from functional analyses. But these functional analyses do not identify causes of any kind, much less ultimate ones. So-called ultimate explanations are not about causes in any sense resembling those of proximate explanations. The attitude, implicit in the term ultimate cause, that these functional analyses are somehow superordinate to those involving proximate causes is unfounded. Ultimate causes are neither ultimate nor causes.
|Keywords||Proximate cause ultimate cause function functionalism structuralism adaptation sociobiology behavioral ecology|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
References found in this work BETA
The Nature of Selection: Evolutionary Theory in Philosophical Focus.Elliott Sober - 1984 - University of Chicago Press.
Sociobiology: The New Synthesis.Edward O. Wilson - 2000 - Journal of the History of Biology 33 (3):577-584.
Aspects of Scientific Explanation.Carl Gustav Hempel - 1965 - In Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. Free Press. pp. 504.
Citations of this work BETA
More on How and Why: Cause and Effect in Biology Revisited.Kevin N. Laland, John Odling-Smee, William Hoppitt & Tobias Uller - 2013 - Biology and Philosophy 28 (5):719-745.
Why How and Why Aren't Enough: More Problems with Mayr's Proximate-Ultimate Distinction.Brett Calcott - 2013 - Biology and Philosophy 28 (5):767-780.
The Other Cooperation Problem: Generating Benefit.Brett Calcott - 2008 - Biology and Philosophy 23 (2):179-203.
Proximate and Ultimate Causes: How Come? And What For? [REVIEW]David Haig - 2013 - Biology and Philosophy 28 (5):781-786.
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