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Unity in the concept of function


Steiner, Christian (2009). Unity in the concept of function. Conceptus, (94):91-106.

Abstract

This essay argues that neither the etiological nor the dispositional account of functions conforms to the actual practice by which functions are ascribed in biology. Philip Kitcher’s account, which unifies what is common to both accounts, is assessed against what biologists are actually doing when they ascribe functions. Two problems
of Kitcher’s account are identified: it is too liberal and it tends to circularity, insofar as it presupposes teleological notions. Finally, an alternative account of functions is provided by characterizing the system of sentences that report natural history.

Abstract

This essay argues that neither the etiological nor the dispositional account of functions conforms to the actual practice by which functions are ascribed in biology. Philip Kitcher’s account, which unifies what is common to both accounts, is assessed against what biologists are actually doing when they ascribe functions. Two problems
of Kitcher’s account are identified: it is too liberal and it tends to circularity, insofar as it presupposes teleological notions. Finally, an alternative account of functions is provided by characterizing the system of sentences that report natural history.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
Dewey Decimal Classification:100 Philosophy
Uncontrolled Keywords:biological function, teleology, living beings, philosophy of biology, etiological account, dispositions
Language:English
Date:2009
Deposited On:22 May 2012 07:31
Last Modified:07 Dec 2017 11:06
Publisher:Ontos Verlag
ISSN:0010-5155
Funders:Forschungskredit UZH
Related URLs:http://conceptus.at/

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