A Generalized Selected Effects Theory of Function

Philosophy of Science 84 (3):523-543 (2017)
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Abstract
I present and defend the generalized selected effects theory (GSE) of function. According to GSE, the function of a trait consists in the activity that contributed to its bearer’s differential reproduction, or differential retention, within a population. Unlike the traditional selected effects (SE) theory, it does not require that the functional trait helped its bearer reproduce; differential retention is enough. Although the core theory has been presented previously, I go significantly beyond those presentations by providing a new argument for GSE and defending it from a recent objection. I also sketch its implications for teleosemantics and philosophy of medicine.
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Archival date: 2018-02-02
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2017-09-15

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