- Attributing functions to features of organisms is a favorite activity of biologists. The problem of analyzing these function statements generated a lively controversy, to which the most carefully defended contribution to date is surely that of "Wright (Larry) - Functions". Wright also offers a comprehensive critique of rival views.
- Although this critique seems largely successful, there are reasons for thinking that his positive proposal remains unsatisfactory.
- Wright argues that a certain sort of explanatory force shown by function statements is the central element in their meaning. In particular, he holds that the function of a trait is that one among its effects by which its presence may be explained.
- I wish to argue that this etiological approach is inferior to a simple articulation of an older idea: that a function is a contribution to a goal.
- In the first section I will discuss Wright's proposal; in the second I will defend the competing goal analysis.
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