A New Foundation for the Propensity Interpretation of Fitness

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (4):851-881 (2013)
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The propensity interpretation of fitness (PIF) is commonly taken to be subject to a set of simple counterexamples. We argue that three of the most important of these are not counterexamples to the PIF itself, but only to the traditional mathematical model of this propensity: fitness as expected number of offspring. They fail to demonstrate that a new mathematical model of the PIF could not succeed where this older model fails. We then propose a new formalization of the PIF that avoids these (and other) counterexamples. By producing a counterexample-free model of the PIF, we call into question one of the primary motivations for adopting the statisticalist interpretation of fitness. In addition, this new model has the benefit of being more closely allied with contemporary mathematical biology than the traditional model of the PIF.

Author Profiles

Charles H. Pence
Université Catholique de Louvain


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