There Are No Ahistorical Theories of Function

Philosophy of Science 86 (5):1146-1156 (2019)
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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 embed, implicitly or explicitly, an appeal 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.

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Justin Garson
Hunter College (CUNY)


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