Niche construction, adaptive preferences, and the differences between fitness and utility

Biology and Philosophy 29 (3):315-335 (2014)
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Abstract

A number of scholars have recently defended the claim that there is a close connection between the evolutionary biological notion of fitness and the economic notion of utility: both are said to refer to an organism’s success in dealing with its environment, and both are said to play the same theoretical roles in their respective sciences. However, an analysis of two seemingly disparate but in fact structurally related phenomena—‘niche construction’ (the case where organisms change their environment to make it fit to their needs) and ‘adaptive preferences’ (the case where agents change their wants to make them fit to what the world has given them)—shows that one needs to be very careful about the postulation of this sort of fitness–utility connection. Specifically, I here use the analysis of these two phenomena to establish when connecting fitness and utility is and is not possible

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Armin W. Schulz
University of Kansas

Citations of this work

Three Kinds of Niche Construction.Bendik Hellem Aaby & Grant Ramsey - 2022 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 73 (2):351-372.
Interdisciplinary thinking about mechanisms and causes. [REVIEW]Armin W. Schulz - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 50:94-97.

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The Foundations of Statistics.Leonard J. Savage - 1954 - Wiley Publications in Statistics.
The Logic of Decision.Richard C. Jeffrey - 1965 - New York, NY, USA: University of Chicago Press.
Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection.Peter Godfrey-Smith - 2009 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.

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