Journal Article

Biological Function, Selection, and Reduction

Richard N. Manning

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 48, issue 1, pages 69-82
Published in print March 1997 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online March 1997 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/48.1.69
Biological Function, Selection, and Reduction

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It is widely assumed that selection history accounts of function can support a fully reductive naturalization of functional properties. I argue that this assumption is false. A problem with the alternative causal role account of function in this context is that it invokes the teleological notion of a goal in analysing real function. The selection history account, if it is to have reductive status, must not do the same. But attention to certain cases of selection history in biology, specifically those involving meiotic drive, shows that selection historical explanations are available in the case of items without any plausible function. Making contributions to goals, here fitness, must be introduced as an additional constraint in the analysis, either explicitly, or implicitly by appeal to individual functions or the selection-of/selection-for distinction.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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