On the Very Idea of an Ecosystem
Odenbaugh (Jay)
Source: Hazlett (Allan) - New Waves in Metaphysics, Chapter 12
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. In this chapter, I consider several different issues.
    1. First, I examine how token ecosystems are individuated by ecologists.
    2. Second, I examine whether ecosystems, or more specifically their components, can have functions. Philosophers have offered two accounts of functions, a selected effect function account and a systemic capacity account. On the former, functions are understood in terms of evolutionary history and on the latter in terms of nested dispositions. Here I side with systemic capacity functions as providing the more reasonable account of functional ascriptions in ecosystem ecology. However, this has downstream implications with regard to the next topic.
    3. Thirdly, many ecologists and conservationists have taken to talking of 'ecosystem health.' Some treat this as mere metaphor but others construe it literally. The notion of ecosystem health is intimately tied to the notion of ecosystemic functions. However, the notion of a 'healthy' or 'diseased' state requires norms of performance, which are noticeably absent on a systemic functions view.
  2. In summary, I offer an extended argument there are mind-independently existing ecosystems, which have functions, but which are neither healthy nor diseased.

Author’s Conclusion
  1. In this chapter, I have offered an extended argument for moderate realism about ecosystems. Likewise, I have provided an account of ecosystem functions that derives from the systemic capacity account used more generally.
  2. Finally, I attempted to show that the popular notion of ecosystem health cannot be made sense of in terms of systemic capacity functions, since they do not provide norms of performance which are required for any notion of health.

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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