This 2001 book offers an examination of functional explanation as it is used in biology and the social sciences, and focuses on the kinds of philosophical presuppositions that such explanations carry with them. It tackles such questions as: why are some things explained functionally while others are not? What do the functional explanations tell us about how these objects are conceptualized? What do we commit ourselves to when we give and take functional explanations in the life sciences and the social (...) sciences? McLaughlin gives a critical review of the debate on functional explanation in the philosophy of science. He discusses the history of the philosophical question of teleology, and provides a comprehensive review of the post-war literature on functional explanation. What Functions Explain provides a sophisticated and detailed Aristotelian analysis of our concept of natural functions, and offers a positive contribution to the ongoing debate on the topic. (shrink)
Based on an analysis of the category of “infinite judgments” in Kant, we will introduce the logical hexagon of predicate negation. This hexagon allows us to visualize in a single diagram the general structure of both Kant’s solution of the antinomies of pure reason and his argument in favor of Transcendental Idealism.
The traditional (Leibnizian) reading of Descartes on mind-body interaction is given a more rigorous reformulation, explaining how Descartes could assert that the mind while not affecting the quantity of motion in the world could change its direction. It is shown, contrary to the trend in recent literature, that this reading has a reliable textual base, and it is argued that it attributes to Descartes a philosophical position of more substance and interest. The kind of interpretation favored depends on the status (...) that the reader attributes to the assertion of the causal closer of the material world. (shrink)
This paper concerns a prima facie tension between the claims that agents have normative reasons obtaining in virtue of the nature of the options that confront them, and there is a non-trivial connection between the grounds of normative reasons and the upshots of sound practical reasoning. Joint commitment to these claims is shown to give rise to a dilemma. I argue that the dilemma is avoidable on a response dependent account of normative reasons accommodating both and by yielding as a (...) substantial constraint on sound practical reasoning. This fact is shown to have significance for the contemporary dialectic between moral realists and their opponents. (shrink)
Early modern science was deeply anti-Aristotelian and deeply Aristotelian at the same time. Although the rejection of the traditional distinction between natural and forced motion marks a clear difference between modern physics and the natural philosophy of Christian Aristotelianism, nonetheless most of the conceptual instruments available to early modern science for dealing with physical questions belonged to precisely that tradition that was being rejected. Much of the novelty of early modern science arises from the application of traditional conceptual tools to (...) areas where they had not previously been thought to be appropriate in the service of goals for which they were not originally intended. One area where the use of traditional instruments to novel purposes is particularly striking is the theory of the basic interactions of bodies. (shrink)
This paper analyzes the remarkable popularity of William Paley’s argument from design among contemporary naturalists in biology and the philosophy of science. In philosophy of science Elliott Sober has argued that creationism should be excluded from the schools not because it is not science but because it is ‘less likely’ than evolution according to fairly standard confirmation theory. Creationism is said to have been a plausible scientific option as presented by Paley but no longer to be acceptable according to the (...) same standards that once approved it. In biology C. G. Williams and Richard Dawkins have seen in Paley a proto-adaptationist. This paper shows that the historical assumptions of Sober’s arguments are wrong and that the philosophical arguments themselves take alternatives to science to be alternatives in science and conflate the null hypothesis, chance, with a competing explanatory hypothesis. It is also shown that the similarity of Paley’s adaptationism to that of contemporary biology is not what it is made out to be. (shrink)
One result of recent discussions on the notion of function is that the appeal to the function of something in order to explain why it is there and what it is, presupposes that some system particularly relevant to the function bearer has a good. Some recent analyses of what it means to have a good trace having a good back to having a function. Two such attempts are examined and compared to a more traditional analysis. An anachronistic version of Aristotle, (...) involving the self-production of the beneficiary, s recommended as a better starting point for a naturalistic reconstruction of the subject of benefit. (shrink)
We claim that much of the confusion associated with the "tautology problem" about survival of the fittest is due to the mistake of attributing fitness to individuals instead of to types. We argue further that the problem itself cannot be solved merely by taking fitness as the aggregate cause of reproductive success. We suggest that a satisfying explanation must center not on logical analysis of the concept of general adaptedness but on the empirical analysis of single adapted traits and their (...) causal relationship to changes in allele frequencies. (shrink)
Leading biologists and philosophers of biology discuss the basic theories and concepts of biology and their connections with ethics, economics, and psychology, providing a remarkably unified report on the “state of the art” in the philosophy of biology.