Neo‐functional Analysis: Phylogenetical Restrictions on Causal Role Functions

Philosophy of Science 74 (5):601-615 (2007)
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Abstract

The most recent resurgence of philosophical attention to the so-called ‘functional talk' in the sciences can be summarized in terms of the following questions: (Q1) What kind of restrictions, and in particular, what kind of evolutionary restrictions as well as to what extent, is involved in functional ascriptions? (Q2) How can we account for the explanatory import of function-ascribing statements? This paper addresses these questions through a modified version of Cummins' functional analysis. The modification in question is concerned with phylogenetical restrictions on causal role functions, and it stems from an analysis of some primary areas in molecular biology. I examine how evolutionary consideration affects the so-called ‘function-analytical explanatory strategy' (Cummins [1975] 1998, 2002). Finally, I argue that the neo-functional analysis here proposed accounts for a certain convergence between the main rival theories of biological function. ‡I wish to thank David Davies, Eva Jablonka, Thomas Reydon, and Marcel Weber for their helpful comments. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Rijeka, Omladinska 14, 51000 Rijeka, Croatia; e-mail: [email protected].

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References found in this work

Functions.Larry Wright - 1973 - Philosophical Review 82 (2):139-168.
Discovery and explanation in biology and medicine.Kenneth F. Schaffner - 1993 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Philosophy of Experimental Biology.Marcel Weber - 2004 - Cambridge University Press.

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