Biology and Philosophy 35 (4):1-18 (2020)

Authors
John Matthewson
Massey University
Abstract
Natural selection comes in degrees. Some biological traits are subjected to stronger selective force than others, selection on particular traits waxes and wanes over time, and some groups can only undergo an attenuated kind of selective process. This has downstream consequences for any notions that are standardly treated as binary but depend on natural selection. For instance, the proper function of a biological structure can be defined as what caused that structure to be retained by natural selection in the past. We usually think of proper functions in binary terms: storing bile is a function of the gall bladder, but making stones is not. However, if functions arise through natural selection, and natural selection comes in degrees, then a binary approach to proper functions is in tension with the biological facts. In order to resolve this tension, we need to revise our standard accounts of proper function. In particular, we may have to seriously consider the possibility that functions themselves come in degrees, in spite of the ramifications this will have for the way we speak about functions and related concepts such as dysfunction, disease, and teleosemantic content.
Keywords Natural selection  Function  Disease  Teleosemantics
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DOI 10.1007/s10539-020-09758-y
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References found in this work BETA

Functional Analysis.Robert Cummins - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.
Representation in Cognitive Science.Nicholas Shea - 2018 - Oxford University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

The Quantitative Problem for Theories of Dysfunction and Disease.Thomas Schramme - 2021 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 17 (2):(SI7)5-30.

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