Integrative pluralism for biological function

Biology and Philosophy 34 (6):1-21 (2019)
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We introduce a new type of pluralism about biological function that, in contrast to existing, demonstrates a practical integration among the term’s different meanings. In particular, we show how to generalize Sandra Mitchell’s notion of integrative pluralism to circumstances where multiple epistemic tools of the same type are jointly necessary to solve scientific problems. We argue that the multiple definitions of biological function operate jointly in this way based on how biologists explain the evolution of protein function. To clarify how our account relates to existing views, we introduce a general typology for monist and pluralist accounts along with standardized criteria for judging which is best supported by evidence.

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Beckett Sterner
Arizona State University


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