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What Functions Explain: Functional Explanation and Self-Reproducing Systems

Series: Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Biology

By: Peter McLaughlin

271 pages, no illustrations

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Aug 2007 | #170541 | ISBN-13: 9780521038850
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £35.99 $48/€41 approx
Hardback | Jun 2001 | #118964 | ISBN: 0521782333
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £76.99 $102/€87 approx

About this book

This book offers an examination of functional explanation as it is used in biology and the social sciences, and focuses on the kinds of philosophical presuppositions that such explanations carry with them. It tackles such questions as: Why are some things explained functionally while others are not? What do the functional explanations tell us about how these objects are conceptualized? What do we commit ourselves to when we give and take functional explanations in the life sciences and the social sciences?

McLaughlin gives a critical review of the debate on functional explanation in the philosophy of science. He discusses the history of the philosophical question of teleology, and provides a comprehensive review of the post-war literature on functional explanation. What Functions Explain provides a sophisticated and detailed Aristotelian analysis of our concept of natural functions, and offers a positive contribution to the ongoing debate on the topic.

Originaly published in 2001.

'McLaughlin has given us an original and daring account of functional explanation ... [his] fascinating account of organisms as self-maintaining systems is important ...' Acta Biotheoretica


Acknowledgements; Part I. Functions and Intentions: 1. Introduction; 2. The problem of teleology; 3. Intentions and the functions of artifacts; Part II. The Analysis of Functional Explanation: 4. Basic positions in philosophy of science: Hempel and Nagel; 5. The etiological view; 6. The dispositional view; Part III. Self-Reproducing Systems: 7. Artifacts and organisms; 8. Feedback mechanisms and their beneficiaries; 9. Having a good; 10. What functions explain; Notes; Bibliography; Index.

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