Functional explanation and virtual selection


Authors
Philip Pettit
Australian National University
Abstract
Invoking its social function can explain why we find a certain functional trait or institution only if we can identify a mechanism whereby the playing of the function connects with the explanandum. That is the main claim in the missing-mechanism critique of functionalism. Is it correct? Yes, if functional explanation is meant to make sense of the actual presence of the trait or institution. No, if it is meant to make sense of why the trait or institution is resilient: why we can rely on it to survive various contingencies. The lesson? Social functionalism should be taken, and may have been taken by its founders, as a programme for explaining resilience.
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/47.2.291
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References found in this work BETA

Functional Analysis.Robert Cummins - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.
The Nature of Selection.Elliott Sober - 1986 - Behaviorism 14 (1):77-88.
The Common Mind.Philip Pettit - 1993 - Oxford University Press.
Ulysses and the Sirens.Jon Elster - 1986 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 15 (1):82-95.

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Citations of this work BETA

I—Culture and Critique.Sally Haslanger - 2017 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 91 (1):149-173.
A Modest Proposal for Interpreting Structural Explanations.Mariam Thalos - 1998 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 49 (2):279-295.
Rational Choice, Functional Selection and Empty Black Boxes.Philip Pettit - 2000 - Journal of Economic Methodology 7 (1):33-57.

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