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Proper Function and Recent Selection

Peter H. Schwartz
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 66, Supplement. Proceedings of the 1998 Biennial Meetings of the Philosophy of Science Association. Part I: Contributed Papers (Sep., 1999), pp. S210-S222
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/188772
Page Count: 13
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Proper Function and Recent Selection
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Abstract

"Modern History" versions of the etiological theory claim that in order for a trait X to have the proper function F, individuals with X must have been recently favored by natural selection for doing F (Godfrey-Smith 1994; Griffiths 1992, 1993). For many traits with prototypical proper functions, however, such recent selection may not have occurred: traits may have been maintained due to lack of variation or due to selection for other effects. I examine this flaw in Modern History accounts and offer an alternative etiological theory, the Continuing Usefulness account, which appears to avoid such problems.

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