Philosophy Lexicon of Arguments

Author Item Excerpt Meta data

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I 323
Definition Functional Explanation/Function/Bigelow/Pargetter: with a functional explanation we describe existing patterns by reference to future events or states. It is possible that these may never occur.
Why: we explain, e.g. why we have teeth by pointing out their function.
Problem: to explain the function of causally inactive patterns or elements.
I 324
Problem: because the future conditions may not even arise, we do not describe any real properties.
Properties/Bigelow/Pargetter: properties of a system are derived from its causal history, not from its function! Therefore, they do not depend on the function of the system!
Backwards causation/Bigelow/Pargetter: is simply excluded with this.
Function/Explanation/Bigelow/Pargetter: therefore, the function of a system is correspondingly redundant. The function can of course be mentioned, but description is more than mentioning possible effects.
Functional Explanation/Science/Bigelow/Pargetter: there are three approaches that we consider to be generally correct. They all have in common that functions have no significant explanatory power.
I 325
E.g. Evolution/Bigelow/Pargetter: the theories of functional explanation do not allow to explain evolution by saying that a pattern has formed because it fulfils a certain function.
Functional Explanation/Bigelow/Pargetter: Thesis: our theory will be a realistic one.
I 332
Functional Explanation/function/Bigelow/Pargetter: thesis: we want a theory that is forward oriented. Functions can and should be explained by reference to future events and states.
Analogous to the explanation of dispositions.
Analog: our explanation has an analog: the explanation of the evolution-theoretical concept of survival (fitness). (Lit. Pargetter 1987).
VsDarwinism/VsDarwin/Bigelow/Pargetter: frequent objection: the "survival of the able" is an empty tautology.
BigelowVsVs: the objection is based on the assumption that fitness could only be determined retrospectively. He also assumes that the fact that some individuals survive is exactly what constitutes efficiency. (circular).
BigelowVsAetiologic theory: is based on the same misunderstanding. It then claims that also the property of having a function is a retrospective property constituted by the history of survival. Thus, the concept of function is deprived of its explanatory potential.
I 333
Circularity/Bigelow/Pargetter: this objection is often erroneously raised VsDarwinism.
Fitness/solution/Bigelow/Pargetter: however, it is not defined retrospectively, but is analogous to a disposition.
Subjunction/subjunctive/conditional/fitness/Bigelow/Pargetter: Fitness is a subjunctive property: it determines what would happen if these or that circumstances were to occur. This subjunctive property supervenes on the morphological character of the individual or species. There is no circularity.
Biological function/Bigelow/Pargetter: the same applies to them as to fitness. They are two sides of the same coin.
Fitness/Bigelow/Pargetter: means looking forward.

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.

Big I
J. Bigelow, R. Pargetter
Science and Necessity Cambridge 1990

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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2017-09-25