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There Are No Ahistorical Theories of Function

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Abstract

Theories of function are conventionally divided up into historical and ahistorical ones. Proponents of ahistorical theories often cite the ahistoricity of their accounts as a major virtue. Here, I argue that none of the mainstream “ahistorical” accounts are actually ahistorical. All of them refer, implicitly or explicitly, to history. In Boorse’s goal-contribution account, history is latent in the idea of statistical typicality. In the propensity theory, history is implicit in the idea of a species’ natural habitat. In the causal role theory, history is required for making sense of dysfunction. I elaborate some consequences for the functions debate.

Type
Biological Sciences
Information
Philosophy of Science , Volume 86 , Issue 5 , December 2019 , pp. 1146 - 1156
Copyright
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Footnotes

I am grateful to audience members at PSA 2018, where I presented this material. I also thank Daniel Dennett, Paul Griffiths, and Fabian Hundertmark for useful feedback.

References

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