Ludus Vitalis 14 (26):39-67 (2006)

Alberto Molina Pérez
Instituto de Estudios Sociales Avanzados (IESA-CSIC)
Finality, design and purpose have started to be excluded from the language of the natural sciences since the XVIIth century. Darwin succeeded in excluding them from his theory of evolution appealing to a blind and mechanical natural selection. Today, the most usual definitions for the concept of biological function take for granted that functions: 1) are not dependent on a goal; 2) are not dependent on observers, but only on nature; 3) are explicable in causal terms, either with reference to the causal history of the organ (etiological definition), or with reference to its present structure and causal capabilities (dispositional definition). However, we shall see that such presuppositions cannot take into account the normative character of the concept of biological function. We show that a generalization of the concept of scientific objectivity lets us affirm that functions: 1’) are dependent on a goal; 2’) are dependent on both observers and nature; 3’) cannot be reduced to causality, nor break the laws of physics; and yet, 4) are truly objective.
Keywords Teleology  Biological function  Normativity  Objectivity
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Functional Analysis.Robert Cummins - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.

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