Self-re-production and functionality

Synthese 116 (3):303-354 (1998)
Function and teleology can be naturalized either by reference to systems with a particular type of organization or by reference to a particular kind of history. As functions are generally ascribed to states or traits according to their current role and regardless of their origin, etiological accounts are inappropriate. Here, I offer a systems-theoretical interpretation as a new version of an organizational account of functionality, which is more comprehensive than traditional cybernetic views and provides explicit criteria for empirically testable function ascriptions. I propose, that functional states, traits or items are those components of a complex system, which are under certain circumstances necessary for their self-re-production. I show, how this notion can be applied in intra- and trans-generational function ascriptions in biology, how it can deal with the problems of multifunctionality and functional equivalents, and how it relates to concepts like fitness and adaptation. Finally, I argue that most intentional explanations can be treated as functional explanations.
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Logic   Metaphysics   Philosophy of Language
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Reprint years 2004
DOI 10.1023/A:1005073307193
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Computing Mechanisms.Gualtiero Piccinini - 2007 - Philosophy of Science 74 (4):501-526.
Biological Organization and Cross-Generation Functions.C. Saborido, M. Mossio & A. Moreno - 2011 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 62 (3):583-606.
Organisms ≠ Machines.Daniel J. Nicholson - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):669-678.

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