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Adaptational Functional Ascriptions in Evolutionary Biology: A Critique of Schaffner's Views

William A. Rottschaefer
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 64, No. 4 (Dec., 1997), pp. 698-713
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/188569
Page Count: 16
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Adaptational Functional Ascriptions in Evolutionary Biology: A Critique of Schaffner's Views
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Abstract

Kenneth Schaffner has argued that evolutionary theory, strictly understood, cannot support the functional ascriptions used in adaptational functional explanations. Although the causal ascription clause in these ascriptions is supported, the goal-ascription clause cannot be, since it imports anthropocentric features deriving from a vulgar understanding of evolutionary theory. I argue that an etiological interpretation of selectional explanations sanctions both the causal and goal-ascription clauses of functional ascriptions and provides a way to understand teleological explanation within evolutionary biology.

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