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Justin Garson
Hunter College (CUNY)
  1. Teleosemantics, Selection and Novel Contents.Justin Garson & David Papineau - 2019 - Biology and Philosophy 34 (3):36.
    Mainstream teleosemantics is the view that mental representation should be understood in terms of biological functions, which, in turn, should be understood in terms of selection processes. One of the traditional criticisms of teleosemantics is the problem of novel contents: how can teleosemantics explain our ability to represent properties that are evolutionarily novel? In response, some have argued that by generalizing the notion of a selection process to include phenomena such as operant conditioning, and the neural selection that underlies it, (...)
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  2. The Functional Sense of Mechanism.Justin Garson - 2013 - Philosophy of Science 80 (3):317-333.
    This article presents a distinct sense of ‘mechanism’, which I call the functional sense of mechanism. According to this sense, mechanisms serve functions, and this fact places substantive restrictions on the kinds of system activities ‘for which’ there can be a mechanism. On this view, there are no mechanisms for pathology; pathologies result from disrupting mechanisms for functions. Second, on this sense, natural selection is probably not a mechanism for evolution because it does not serve a function. After distinguishing this (...)
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  3.  23
    Do Constancy Mechanisms Save Distal Content?Justin Garson - 2019 - Philosophical Quarterly 69 (275):409-417.
    In this journal, Schulte develops a novel solution to the problem of distal content: by virtue of what is a mental representation about a distal object rather than a more proximal cause of that representation? Schulte maintains that in order for a representation to have a distal content, it must be produced by a constancy mechanism, along with two other conditions. I raise three objections to his solution. First, a core component of Schulte's solution is just a restrictive version of (...)
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  4. Function, Selection, and Construction in the Brain.Justin Garson - 2012 - Synthese 189 (3):451-481.
    A common misunderstanding of the selected effects theory of function is that natural selection operating over an evolutionary time scale is the only functionbestowing process in the natural world. This construal of the selected effects theory conflicts with the existence and ubiquity of neurobiological functions that are evolutionary novel, such as structures underlying reading ability. This conflict has suggested to some that, while the selected effects theory may be relevant to some areas of evolutionary biology, its relevance to neuroscience is (...)
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  5. A Generalized Selected Effects Theory of Function.Justin Garson - 2017 - Philosophy of Science 84 (3):523-543.
    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 (...)
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  6. Two Types of Psychological Hedonism.Justin Garson - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 56:7-14.
    I develop a distinction between two types of psychological hedonism. Inferential hedonism (or “I-hedonism”) holds that each person only has ultimate desires regarding his or her own hedonic states (pleasure and pain). Reinforcement hedonism (or “R–hedonism”) holds that each person's ultimate desires, whatever their contents are, are differentially reinforced in that person’s cognitive system only by virtue of their association with hedonic states. I’ll argue that accepting R-hedonism and rejecting I-hedonism provides a conciliatory position on the traditional altruism debate, and (...)
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  7. Function and Teleology.Justin Garson - 2008 - In Anya Plutynski & Sahotra Sarkar (eds.), Companion to Philosophy of Biology. Malden, MA: Blackwell. pp. 525-549.
    This is a short overview of the biological functions debate in philosophy. While it was fairly comprehensive when it was written, my short book ​A Critical Overview of Biological Functions has largely supplanted it as a definitive and up-to-date overview of the debate, both because the book takes into account new developments since then, and because the length of the book allowed me to go into substantially more detail about existing views.
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  8.  55
    Against Organizational Functions.Justin Garson - 2017 - Philosophy of Science 84 (5):1093-1103.
    Over the last 20 years, several philosophers have developed a new approach to biological functions, the organizational approach. This is not a single theory but a family of theories based on the idea that a trait token can acquire a function by virtue of the way it contributes to a complex, organized system and thereby to its own continued persistence as a token. I argue that the organizational approach faces a serious liberality objection. I examine three different ways organizational theorists (...)
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  9.  83
    How to Be a Function Pluralist.Justin Garson - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (4):1101-1122.
    I distinguish two forms of pluralism about biological functions, between-discipline pluralism and within-discipline pluralism. Between-discipline pluralism holds that different theories of function are appropriate for different subdisciplines of biology and psychology. I provide reasons for rejecting this view. Instead, I recommend within-discipline pluralism, which emphasizes the plurality of function concepts at play within any given subdiscipline of biology and psychology.
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  10. The Introduction of Information Into Neurobiology.Justin Garson - 2002 - Philosophy of Science 70 (5):926-936.
    The first use of the term "information" to describe the content of nervous impulse occurs 20 years prior to Shannon`s (1948) work, in Edgar Adrian`s The Basis of Sensation (1928). Although, at least throughout the 1920s and early 30s, the term "information" does not appear in Adrian`s scientific writings to describe the content of nervous impulse, the notion that the structure of nervous impulse constitutes a type of message subject to certain constraints plays an important role in all of his (...)
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  11. Alexander Forbes, Walter Cannon, and Science-Based Literature.Justin Garson - 2013 - In A. Stiles, S. Finger & F. Boller (eds.), Progress in Brain Research Vol. 205: Literature, Neurology, and Neuroscience: Historical and Literary Connections. Amsterdam: Elsevier. pp. 241-256.
    The Harvard physiologists Alexander Forbes (1882-1965) and Walter Bradford Cannon (1871-1945) had an enormous impact on the physiology and neuroscience of the twentieth century. In addition to their voluminous scientific output, they also used literature to reflect on the nature of science itself and its social significance. Forbes wrote a novel, The Radio Gunner, a literary memoir, Quest for a Northern Air Route, and several short stories. Cannon, in addition to several books of popular science, wrote a literary memoir in (...)
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  12. The Birth of Information in the Brain: Edgar Adrian and the Vacuum Tube.Justin Garson - 2015 - Science in Context 28 (1):31-52.
    As historian Henning Schmidgen notes, the scientific study of the nervous system would have been “unthinkable” without the industrialization of communication in the 1830s. Historians have investigated extensively the way nerve physiologists have borrowed concepts and tools from the field of communications, particularly regarding the nineteenth-century work of figures like Helmholtz and in the American Cold War Era. The following focuses specifically on the interwar research of the Cambridge physiologist Edgar Douglas Adrian, and on the technology that led to his (...)
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  13. Schizophrenia and the Dysfunctional Brain.Justin Garson - 2010 - Journal of Cognitive Science 11:215-246.
    Scientists, philosophers, and even the lay public commonly accept that schizophrenia stems from a biological or internal ‘dysfunction.’ However, this assessment is typically accompanied neither by well-defined criteria for determining that something is dysfunctional nor empirical evidence that schizophrenia satisfies those criteria. In the following, a concept of biological function is developed and applied to a neurobiological model of schizophrenia. It concludes that current evidence does not warrant the claim that schizophrenia stems from a biological dysfunction, and, in fact, that (...)
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  14. What is the Value of Historical Fidelity in Restoration?Justin Garson - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 45 (1):97-100.
    The following considers the role of historical fidelity in habitat reconstruction efforts. To what extent should habitat reconstruction be guided by the goal of recreating some past state of a damaged ecosystem? I consider Sarkar’s “replacement argument,” which holds that, in most habitat reconstruction efforts, there is little justification for appealing to historical fidelity. I argue that Sarkar does not provide adequate grounds for deprecating historical fidelity relative to other natural values such as biodiversity or wild nature.
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  15.  32
    There Are No Ahistorical Theories of Function.Justin Garson - forthcoming - Philosophy of Science.
    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 (...)
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  16.  99
    Introduction: The Biology of Psychological Altruism.Justin Garson & Armin W. Schulz - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 56:1-2.
    I develop a distinction between two types of psychological hedonism. Inferential hedonism (or “I-hedonism”) holds that each person only has ultimate desires regarding his or her own hedonic states (pleasure and pain). Reinforcement hedonism (or “R–hedonism”) holds that each person's ultimate desires, whatever their contents are, are differentially reinforced in that person’s cognitive system only by virtue of their association with hedonic states. I’ll argue that accepting R-hedonism and rejecting I-hedonism provides a conciliatory position on the traditional altruism debate, and (...)
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  17.  43
    The Hiddenness of Psychological Symptom Amplification: Some Historical Observations.Justin Garson - 2016 - In Daniel Moseley & Gary Gala (eds.), Philosophy and Psychiatry: Problems, Intersections, and New Perspectives. New York: Routledge. pp. 29-35.
    This book chapter is a short response to a paper by the psychiatrist Nicholas Kontos, on the phenomenon of psychological symptom amplification (PSA). PSA takes place when patients present symptoms to clinicians that they do not actually have, or, perhaps more commonly, they exaggerate symptoms they do have. Kontos argues that, because of modern medical training, it is very difficult for clinicians to recognize that the patient's presented symptoms are exaggerated or nonexistent. I argue that the hiddenness of PSA is (...)
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