Acta Biotheoretica

, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 123–151

The Function Debate in Philosophy

Review Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10441-005-5353-6

Cite this article as:
Wouters, A. Acta Biotheor (2005) 53: 123. doi:10.1007/s10441-005-5353-6


This paper reviews the debate on the notion of biological function and on functional explanation as this takes place in philosophy. It describes the different perspectives, issues, intuitions, theories and arguments that have emerged. The author shows that the debate has been too heavily influenced by the concerns of a naturalistic philosophy of mind and argues that in order to improve our understanding of biology the attention should be shifted from the study of intuitions to the study of the actual practice of biological inquiry.

Key Words

functionfunctional explanationteleology

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of BiologyLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands