Fitness: Philosophical Problems

eLS (2013)
Authors
Charles H. Pence
Université Catholique de Louvain
Abstract
Fitness plays many roles throughout evolutionary theory, from a measure of populations in the wild to a central element in abstract theoretical presentations of natural selection. It has thus been the subject of an extensive philosophical literature, which has primarily centered on the way to understand the relationship between fitness values and reproductive outcomes. If fitness is a probabilistic or statistical quantity, how is it to be defined in general theoretical contexts? How can it be measured? Can a single conceptual model for fitness be offered that applies in all biological cases, or must fitness measures be case-specific? Philosophers have explored these questions over the last several decades, largely in the context of an influential definition of fitness proposed in the late 1970s: the propensity interpretation. This interpretation as first described undeniably suffers from significant difficulties, and debate regarding the tenability of amendments and alternatives to it remains unsettled.
Keywords environment  evolution  fitness  drift  measurement  natural selection  propensity interpretation  tautology
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