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What Biological Functions Are and Why They Matter

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2020.03.18 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Justin Garson, What Biological Functions Are and Why They Matter, Cambridge, 2019, 235pp., $99.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781108472593. Reviewed by Brandon A. Conley, Cornell University Why do zebras have stripes? While biologists worry about what the function of zebra stripes is, philosophers have long worried about what exactly biologists are worried about. What exactly is it for zebra stripes, or any other biological trait, to have a particular function? In his aptly titled book, Justin Garson develops and defends an account of biological functions he dubs the "generalized selected effects" (GSE) theory, and applies it to a laundry list of extant philosophical debates in which the concept of function looms large. According to selected effect accounts, an item's function is whatever it does that has been favored by a history of natural selection. GSE generalizes this approach by relying on a less restrictive notion of a selective process,... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

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