Why Is a Wing Like a Spoon? A Pluralist Theory of Function

Journal of Philosophy 95 (5):215-254 (1998)
Function theorists routinely speculate that a viable function theory will be equally applicable to biological traits and artifacts. However, artifact function has received only the most cursory scrutiny in its own right. Closer scrutiny reveals that only a pluralist theory comprising two distinct notions of function--proper function and system function--will serve as an adequate general theory. The first section describes these two notions of function. The second section shows why both notions are necessary, by showing that attempts to do away with one of them fail. This demonstration draws on examples from the artifactual realm to motivate major points of the argument. The third section is an outline of artifact function. It confirms the conclusions of the second section, and also begins the task of describing some of the special features of artifact function needing accommodation within the general theory.
Keywords proper function  artifacts  Ruth Millikan  adaptationism
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DOI jphil199895516
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Wybo Houkes (2006). Knowledge of Artefact Functions. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 37 (1):102-113.

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