Journal Article

Sex and Selection: a Reply to Matthen

Tim Lewens

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 52, issue 3, pages 589-598
Published in print September 2001 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online September 2001 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/52.3.589
Sex and Selection: a Reply to Matthen

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Mohan Matthen ([1999]) argues that when reproduction is sexual, natural selection can explain why individual organisms possess the traits they do. In stating his argument Matthen makes use of a conception of individual organisms as receptacles for collections of genes—a conception that cannot do the work Matthen requires of it. Either these receptacles are abstract objects, such as bare possibilities for organisms, or they are concrete. The first reading is too weak, since it allows selection to explain individual traits in both sexual and asexual contexts. The only concrete entities we might think of as receptacles for collections of genes are male or female gametes. It is true that in the sexual context selection explains why an individual gamete combines with a second gamete of one type rather than another; however, this is not to say that selection explains why an individual organism has the traits it does.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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