Finding Normality in Abnormality: On the Ascription of Normal Functions to Cancer

Philosophy of Science:1-14 (2023)
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Cancer biologists ascribe normal functions to parts of cancer. Normal functions are activities that parts of systems are in some minimal sense supposed to perform. Cancer biologists’ finding normality within the abnormality of cancer pose difficulties for two main approaches to normal function. One approach claims that normal functions are activities that parts are selected for. However, some parts of cancers that have normal functions aren’t selected to perform them. The other approach claims that normal functions are part-activities typical for the system and that contribute to survival/reproduction. However, cancers are too heterogeneous to establish what’s typical across a type.

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Seth Goldwasser
University of Pittsburgh


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