Function, Selection, and Design

Edited by David J. Buller

Subjects: Metaphysics
Series: SUNY series in Philosophy and Biology
Paperback : 9780791442128, 334 pages, June 1999
Hardcover : 9780791442111, 334 pages, July 1999

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Table of contents


Introduction. Natural Teleology
David J. Buller

1. Functions
Larry Wright

2. Function Analysis
Robert Cummins

3. Proper Functions
Ruth Garrett Millikan

4. Functions
John Bigelow and Robert Pargetter

5. An Ambiguity in the Notion 'Function"
Ruth Garrett Millikan

6. The Teleological Notion 'Function'
Karen Neander

7. Functional Analysis and Proper Functions
Paul E. Griffiths

8. Function and Design
Philip Kitcher

9. Functions: Consensus Without Unity
Peter Godfrey-Smith

10. A Modern History Theory of Functions
Peter Godfrey-Smith

11. Malfunctioning
Karen Neander

12. The Misuse of Sober's Selection for/Selection of Distinction
Richard Goode and Paul E. Griffiths

13. Biological Function, Adaptation, and Natural Design
Colin Allen and Marc Bekoff

14. A Taxonomy of Functions
Denis Walsh and Andre Ariew

15. Etiological Theories of Functions: A Geographical Survey
David J. Buller




A complete sourcebook for philosophical discussion of the nature of function in biology.


This authoritative book, written by the leading experts in the field of the philosophy of biology, brings together the defining literature in the debate concerning proper analysis of teleological concepts in biology. The introduction provides a clear and coherent overview to the philosophical progress regarding the nature of function in biology, and the book's chronological structure offers historical insight and perspective.

This anthology is well-planned, representative, and current in its orientation. All of the major positions and figures are represented, and the volume is framed by Buller's essays, an organization that serves to consolidate many themes introduced by the diverse slate of authors.

The scientific revolution ushered in a picture of the universe as governed solely by mechanical causation working forward in time, which appeared to leave no room in nature for teleological (or goal-directed) processes. But within the last decade a near-consensus has emerged among philosophers that the theory of evolution by natural selection provides the framework for a wholly naturalist analysis of the concept of function in biology, and thus solves the traditional philosophical problems regarding teleology. Function, Selection, and Design illustrates this growing consensus and the recent debate concerning the details of a fully adequate analysis of the concept of function.

[Contributors include Colin Allen, André Ariew, Marc Bekoff, John Bigelow, David J. Buller, Robert Cummins, Peter Godfrey-Smith, Richard Goode, Paul E. Griffiths, Philip Kitcher, Ruth Garrett Millikan, Karen Neander, Robert Pargetter, Denis Walsh, and Larry Wright. ]

David J. Buller is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Northern Illinois University.


"The debate about functions has become rather complex, and with articles being published hither and yon, it's been very difficult to follow. Buller has selected very readable and important essays, ones that track the course of the debate quite nicely. I was delighted to have them all collected, edited, and organized for me. " —Barbara L. Horan, Georgia Southern University