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Profile: Justin Garson (Hunter College (CUNY))
  1. Functions Must Be Performed at Appropriate Rates in Appropriate Situations.G. Piccinini & Justin Garson - 2014 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65 (1):1-20.
    We sketch a novel and improved version of Boorse’s biostatistical theory of functions. Roughly, our theory maintains that (i) functions are non-negligible contributions to survival or inclusive fitness (when a trait contributes to survival or inclusive fitness); (ii) situations appropriate for the performance of a function are typical situations in which a trait contributes to survival or inclusive fitness; (iii) appropriate rates of functioning are rates that make adequate contributions to survival or inclusive fitness (in situations appropriate for the performance (...)
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  2. The Functional Sense of Mechanism.Justin Garson - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (3):317-333.
    This article presents a distinct sense of ‘mechanism’, which I call the functional sense of mechanism. According to this sense, mechanisms serve functions, and this fact places substantive restrictions on the kinds of system activities ‘for which’ there can be a mechanism. On this view, there are no mechanisms for pathology; pathologies result from disrupting mechanisms for functions. Second, on this sense, natural selection is probably not a mechanism for evolution because it does not serve a function. After distinguishing this (...)
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  3.  28
    Against Organizational Functions.Justin Garson - 2017 - Philosophy of Science 84 (5):1093-1103.
    Over the last 20 years, several philosophers have developed a new approach to biological functions, the organizational approach. This is not a single theory but a family of theories based on the idea that a trait token can acquire a function by virtue of the way it contributes to a complex, organized system and thereby to its own continued persistence as a token. I argue that the organizational approach faces a serious liberality objection. I examine three different ways organizational theorists (...)
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  4. Function and Teleology.Justin Garson - 2008 - In Anya Plutynski & Sahotra Sarkar (eds.), Companion to Philosophy of Biology. Malden, MA: Blackwell. pp. 525-549.
    This is a short overview of the biological functions debate in philosophy. While it was fairly comprehensive when it was written, my short book ​A Critical Overview of Biological Functions has largely supplanted it as a definitive and up-to-date overview of the debate, both because the book takes into account new developments since then, and because the length of the book allowed me to go into substantially more detail about existing views.
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  5.  90
    Function, Selection, and Construction in the Brain.Justin Garson - 2012 - Synthese 189 (3):451-481.
    A common misunderstanding of the selected effects theory of function is that natural selection operating over an evolutionary time scale is the only functionbestowing process in the natural world. This construal of the selected effects theory conflicts with the existence and ubiquity of neurobiological functions that are evolutionary novel, such as structures underlying reading ability. This conflict has suggested to some that, while the selected effects theory may be relevant to some areas of evolutionary biology, its relevance to neuroscience is (...)
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  6.  72
    Selected Effects and Causal Role Functions in the Brain: The Case for an Etiological Approach to Neuroscience.Justin Garson - 2011 - Biology and Philosophy 26 (4):547-565.
    Despite the voluminous literature on biological functions produced over the last 40 years, few philosophers have studied the concept of function as it is used in neuroscience. Recently, Craver (forthcoming; also see Craver 2001) defended the causal role theory against the selected effects theory as the most appropriate theory of function for neuroscience. The following argues that though neuroscientists do study causal role functions, the scope of that theory is not as universal as claimed. Despite the strong prima facie superiority (...)
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  7.  98
    The Birth of Information in the Brain: Edgar Adrian and the Vacuum Tube.Justin Garson - 2015 - Science in Context 28 (1):31-52.
    As historian Henning Schmidgen notes, the scientific study of the nervous system would have been “unthinkable” without the industrialization of communication in the 1830s. Historians have investigated extensively the way nerve physiologists have borrowed concepts and tools from the field of communications, particularly regarding the nineteenth-century work of figures like Helmholtz and in the American Cold War Era. The following focuses specifically on the interwar research of the Cambridge physiologist Edgar Douglas Adrian, and on the technology that led to his (...)
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  8. Two Types of Psychological Hedonism.Justin Garson - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 56:7-14.
    I develop a distinction between two types of psychological hedonism. Inferential hedonism (or “I-hedonism”) holds that each person only has ultimate desires regarding his or her own hedonic states (pleasure and pain). Reinforcement hedonism (or “R–hedonism”) holds that each person's ultimate desires, whatever their contents are, are differentially reinforced in that person’s cognitive system only by virtue of their association with hedonic states. I’ll argue that accepting R-hedonism and rejecting I-hedonism provides a conciliatory position on the traditional altruism debate, and (...)
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  9.  62
    Alexander Forbes, Walter Cannon, and Science-Based Literature.Justin Garson - 2013 - In A. Stiles, S. Finger & F. Boller (eds.), Progress in Brain Research Vol. 205: Literature, Neurology, and Neuroscience: Historical and Literary Connections. Amsterdam: Elsevier. pp. 241-256.
    The Harvard physiologists Alexander Forbes (1882-1965) and Walter Bradford Cannon (1871-1945) had an enormous impact on the physiology and neuroscience of the twentieth century. In addition to their voluminous scientific output, they also used literature to reflect on the nature of science itself and its social significance. Forbes wrote a novel, The Radio Gunner, a literary memoir, Quest for a Northern Air Route, and several short stories. Cannon, in addition to several books of popular science, wrote a literary memoir in (...)
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  10.  17
    A Generalized Selected Effects Theory of Function.Justin Garson - 2017 - Philosophy of Science 84 (3):523-543.
    I present and defend the generalized selected effects theory (GSE) of function. According to GSE, the function of a trait consists in the activity that contributed to its bearer’s differential reproduction, or differential retention, within a population. Unlike the traditional selected effects (SE) theory, it does not require that the functional trait helped its bearer reproduce; differential retention is enough. Although the core theory has been presented previously, I go significantly beyond those presentations by providing a new argument for GSE (...)
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  11.  23
    How to Be a Function Pluralist.Justin Garson - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axx007.
    I distinguish two forms of pluralism about biological functions, between-discipline pluralism and within-discipline pluralism. Between-discipline pluralism holds that different theories of function are appropriate for different subdisciplines of biology and psychology. I provide reasons for rejecting this view. Instead, I recommend within-discipline pluralism, which emphasizes the plurality of function concepts at play within any given subdiscipline of biology and psychology.
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  12. The Introduction of Information Into Neurobiology.Justin Garson - 2003 - Philosophy of Science 70 (5):926-936.
    The first use of the term "information" to describe the content of nervous impulse occurs 20 years prior to Shannon`s (1948) work, in Edgar Adrian`s The Basis of Sensation (1928). Although, at least throughout the 1920s and early 30s, the term "information" does not appear in Adrian`s scientific writings to describe the content of nervous impulse, the notion that the structure of nervous impulse constitutes a type of message subject to certain constraints plays an important role in all of his (...)
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  13.  58
    What is the Value of Historical Fidelity in Restoration?Justin Garson - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 45 (1):97-100.
    The following considers the role of historical fidelity in habitat reconstruction efforts. To what extent should habitat reconstruction be guided by the goal of recreating some past state of a damaged ecosystem? I consider Sarkar’s “replacement argument,” which holds that, in most habitat reconstruction efforts, there is little justification for appealing to historical fidelity. I argue that Sarkar does not provide adequate grounds for deprecating historical fidelity relative to other natural values such as biodiversity or wild nature.
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  14.  32
    Schizophrenia and the Dysfunctional Brain.Justin Garson - 2010 - Journal of Cognitive Science 11:215-246.
    Scientists, philosophers, and even the lay public commonly accept that schizophrenia stems from a biological or internal ‘dysfunction.’ However, this assessment is typically accompanied neither by well-defined criteria for determining that something is dysfunctional nor empirical evidence that schizophrenia satisfies those criteria. In the following, a concept of biological function is developed and applied to a neurobiological model of schizophrenia. It concludes that current evidence does not warrant the claim that schizophrenia stems from a biological dysfunction, and, in fact, that (...)
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  15.  76
    Introduction: The Biology of Psychological Altruism.Justin Garson & Armin Schulz - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 56:1-2.
    I develop a distinction between two types of psychological hedonism. Inferential hedonism (or “I-hedonism”) holds that each person only has ultimate desires regarding his or her own hedonic states (pleasure and pain). Reinforcement hedonism (or “R–hedonism”) holds that each person's ultimate desires, whatever their contents are, are differentially reinforced in that person’s cognitive system only by virtue of their association with hedonic states. I’ll argue that accepting R-hedonism and rejecting I-hedonism provides a conciliatory position on the traditional altruism debate, and (...)
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  16.  23
    The Hiddenness of Psychological Symptom Amplification: Some Historical Observations.Justin Garson - 2016 - In Daniel Moseley & Gary Gala (eds.), Philosophy and Psychiatry: Problems, Intersections, and New Perspectives. New York: Routledge. pp. 29-35.
    This book chapter is a short response to a paper by the psychiatrist Nicholas Kontos, on the phenomenon of psychological symptom amplification (PSA). PSA takes place when patients present symptoms to clinicians that they do not actually have, or, perhaps more commonly, they exaggerate symptoms they do have. Kontos argues that, because of modern medical training, it is very difficult for clinicians to recognize that the patient's presented symptoms are exaggerated or nonexistent. I argue that the hiddenness of PSA is (...)
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  17.  39
    How Development May Direct Evolution.Justin Garson, Linton Wang & Sahotra Sarkar - 2003 - Biology and Philosophy 18 (2):353-370.
    A framework is presented in which the role ofdevelopmental rules in phenotypic evolution canbe studied for some simple situations. Usingtwo different implicit models of development,characterized by different developmental mapsfrom genotypes to phenotypes, it is shown bysimulation that developmental rules and driftcan result in directional phenotypic evolutionwithout selection. For both models thesimulations show that the critical parameterthat drives the final phenotypic distributionis the cardinality of the set of genotypes thatmap to each phenotype. Details of thedevelopmental map do not matter. If phenotypesare (...)
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  18. 10. Referees for Philosophy of Science Referees for Philosophy of Science (Pp. 479-482).Justin Garson, Yasha Rohwer, Collin Rice, Matteo Colombo, Peter Brössel, Davide Rizza, Simon M. Huttegger, Richard Healey, Alyssa Ney & Kathryn Phillips - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (3).
  19.  43
    Broken Mechanisms: Function, Pathology, and Natural Selection.Justin Garson - unknown
    The following describes one distinct sense of ‘mechanism’ which is prevalent in biology and biomedicine and which has important epistemic benefits. According to this sense, mechanisms are defined by the functions they facilitate. This construal has two important implications. Firstly, mechanisms that facilitate functions are capable of breaking. Secondly, on this construal, there are rigid constraints on the sorts of phenomena ‘for which’ there can be a mechanism. In this sense, there are no ‘mechanisms for’ pathology, and natural selection is (...)
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  20.  19
    Carl F. Craver and Lindley Darden. In Search of Mechanisms: Discoveries Across the Life Sciences. [REVIEW]Justin Garson - 2015 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 5 (1):180-83.
    Carl F. Craver and Lindley Darden’s new book, In Search of Mechanisms: Discoveries across the Life Sciences, is a fantastic and lucid introduction to the “new mechanism” tradition in the philosophy of science. Over the last 2 decades, but particularly since the turn of the century, this has become an influential framework for thinking about core problems in the history and philosophy of science, with a strong emphasis on biology. There are at least four major aims. First, the new mechanism (...)
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  21.  10
    Why Function Indeterminacy is Still a Problem for Biomedicine, and How Seeing Functional Items as Components of Mechanisms Can Solve It.Justin Garson - unknown
    During the 1990s, many philosophers wrestled with the problem of function indeterminacy. Although interest in the problem has waned, I argue that solving the problem is of value for biomedical research and practice. This is because a solution to the problem is required in order to specify rigorously the conditions under which a given item is “dysfunctional.” In the following I revisit a solution developed originally by Neander, which uses functional analysis to solve the problem. I situate her solution in (...)
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  22.  11
    A Critical Overview of Biological Functions.Justin Garson - 2016 - Dordrecht: Springer.
    This book is a critical survey of and guidebook to the literature on biological functions. It ties in with current debates and developments, and at the same time, it looks back on the state of discourse in naturalized teleology prior to the 1970s. It also presents three significant new proposals. First, it describes the generalized selected effects theory, which is one version of the selected effects theory, maintaining that the function of a trait consists in the activity that led to (...)
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  23.  5
    The Biological Mind: A Philosophical Introduction.Justin Garson - 2015 - London: Routledge.
    For some, biology explains all there is to know about the mind. Yet many big questions remain: is the mind shaped by genes or the environment? If mental traits are the result of adaptations built up over thousands of years, as evolutionary psychologists claim, how can such claims be tested? If the mind is a machine, as biologists argue, how does it allow for something as complex as human consciousness? The Biological Mind: A Philosophical Introduction explores these questions and more, (...)
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  24.  1
    The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Biodiversity.Justin Garson, Anya Plutynski & Sahotra Sarkar (eds.) - 2017 - Routledge.
    Biological diversity - or ‘biodiversity’ - is the degree of variation of life within an ecosystem. It is a relatively new topic of study but has grown enormously in recent years. Because of its interdisciplinary nature the very concept of biodiversity is the subject of debate amongst philosophers, biologists, geographers and environmentalists. The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Biodiversity is an outstanding reference source to the key topics and debates in this exciting subject. Comprising twenty-three chapters by a team of (...)
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