Manuscrito 37 (2):227-267 (2014)

In this essay I will argue that natural selection is more important to functional explanations than what has been thought in some of the literature in philosophy of biology. I start by giving a brief overview of the two paradigms cases of functional explanations: etiological functions and causal-role functions. i then consider one particular attempt to conciliate both perspectives given by David Buller. Buller's trial to conciliate both etiological functions and causal-role functions results in what he calls a weak etiological theory. I argue that Buller has not succeeded in his construal of the weak etiological theory: he underestimates the role that selective processes have in functional explanations and so his theory may not be classified as an etiologial theory. As an alternative, I consider the account of etiological functions given by Ruth Millikan and I argue that Millikan's theory is more comprehensive to assess contentious case in biology like exaptations. Finally, I conclude by analyzing where the adoption of Millikan's theory leave us. I argue, contrary to Millikan and others, that once we assume the importance of natural selection in functional explanations, there is no strong reason to resist a linguistic reform of the word function and hence that the attempts to conciliate both etiological functions and causal-role functions are misplaced.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1590/S0100-60452014005000001
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 63,417
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Functional Analysis.Robert Cummins - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.
Knowing One’s Own Mind.Donald Davidson - 1987 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 60 (3):441-458.
Functions.Larry Wright - 1973 - Philosophical Review 82 (2):139-168.
In Defense of Proper Functions.Ruth Garrett Millikan - 1989 - Philosophy of Science 56 (June):288-302.

View all 14 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Functional Explanation, Consequence Explanation, and Marxism.G. A. Cohen - 1982 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 25 (1):27 – 56.
Biological Function, Selection, and Reduction.Richard N. Manning - 1997 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 48 (1):69-82.
Can Intentional and Functional Explanations of Actions Coexist?Rob Vanderbeeken - 2006 - The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy 9:143-147.
Causes, Proximate and Ultimate.Richard C. Francis - 1990 - Biology and Philosophy 5 (4):401-415.
Functional Clothes for the Emperor.Gary L. Brase - 2004 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (3):328-329.
Adaptación y función.Santiago Ginnobili - 2009 - Ludus Vitalis (31):3-24.
When Functions and Causes Compete.Daniel Heussen - 2010 - Thinking and Reasoning 16 (3):233-250.
Two Tales of Functional Explanation.Martin Roth & Robert Cummins - 2014 - Philosophical Psychology 27 (6):773-788.
The Autonomy of Functional Biology: A Reply to Rosenberg.Marc Lange - 2004 - Biology and Philosophy 19 (1):93-109.


Added to PP index

Total views
15 ( #674,472 of 2,449,094 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #442,577 of 2,449,094 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes