Abstract
According to historical theories of biological function, a trait's function is determined by natural selection in the past. I argue that, in addition to historical functions, ahistorical functions ought to be recognized. I propose a theory of biological function which accommodates both. The function of a trait is the way it contributes to fitness and fitness can only be determined relative to a selective regime. Therefore, the function of a trait can only be specified relative to a selective regime. Apart from its desirable pluralism, only this view of relational function can support the function/accident and function/malfunction distinctions commonly thought to be part of the concept of function. Furthermore, only relational function correctly characterizes the explanatory consequences of function attributions in evolutionary biology.
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/47.4.553
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References found in this work BETA

Functional Analysis.Robert Cummins - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.

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An Organizational Account of Biological Functions.Matteo Mossio, Cristian Saborido & Alvaro Moreno - 2009 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (4):813-841.
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Inference to the Best Explanation.Peter Lipton - 2004 - In Martin Curd & Stathis Psillos (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Science. Routledge. pp. 193.
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