Philosophy of Science 68 (1):75-94 (2001)

Mario Bunge
McGill University
In this paper we examine the following problems: How many concepts of function are there in biology, social science, and technology? Are they logically related and if so, how? Which of these function concepts effect a functional explanation as opposed to a mere functional account? What are the consequences of a pluralist view of functions for functionalism? We submit that there are five concepts of function in biology, which are logically related in a particular way, and six function concepts in social science and technology. Only two of them may help effect a genuine functional explanation. Finally, our synthetic approach allows us to distinguish four different varieties of functionalism in biology, psychology, social science, and technology: formalist, black boxist, adaptationist, and teleological. And only one of them is explanatory in the strong sense defended here
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1086/392867
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 54,593
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

How Does It Work?: The Search for Explanatory Mechanisms.Mario Bunge - 2004 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 34 (2):182-210.
Philosophy of Technology.Maarten Franssen - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Bhaskar and Bunge on Social Emergence.Tuukka Kaidesoja - 2009 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 39 (3):300-322.

View all 16 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

R. K. Merton's Concepts of Function and Functionalism.Hugh Lehman - 1966 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 9 (1-4):274 – 283.
Functional Explanation and Virtual Selection.Philip Pettit - 1996 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (2):291-302.
Functionalism.Thomas W. Polger - 2008 - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Social Structures and Social Functions: The Emancipation of Structural Analysis in Sociology.Filippo Barbano - 1968 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 11 (1-4):40 – 84.
A Note on Functionalism and Function.Colin McGinn - 1981 - Philosophical Topics 12 (1):169-70.
Functional Explanation in Biology.Hugh Lehman - 1965 - Philosophy of Science 32 (1):1-20.
Functional Analysis.Robert Cummins - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.


Added to PP index

Total views
437 ( #15,107 of 2,385,763 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #370,318 of 2,385,763 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes