Acta Biotheoretica

, Volume 64, Issue 2, pp 105–117 | Cite as

The Organizational Account of Function is an Etiological Account of Function

  • Marc ArtigaEmail author
  • Manolo Martínez
Regular Article


The debate on the notion of function has been historically dominated by dispositional and etiological accounts, but recently a third contender has gained prominence: the organizational account. This original theory of function is intended to offer an alternative account based on the notion of self-maintaining system. However, there is a set of cases where organizational accounts seem to generate counterintuitive results. These cases involve cross-generational traits, that is, traits that do not contribute in any relevant way to the self-maintenance of the organism carrying them, but instead have very important effects on organisms that belong to the next generation. We argue that any plausible solution to the problem of cross-generational traits shows that the organizational account just is a version of the etiological theory and, furthermore, that it does not provide any substantive advantage over standard etiological theories of function.


Function Organizational account Etiological account Cross-generational trait Epiphenomenalism 



Financial support for this work was provided by the DGI, Spanish Government, research project FFI2011-26853 and Consolider-Ingenio project CSD2009-00056; the Generalitat de Catalunya, under grant 2014-SGR-81; a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Instituto de Investigaciones Filosoficas (UNAM) and a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Munich Center for Mathematical PhilosophyLudwig-Maximilians-Universität MünchenMunichGermany
  2. 2.LOGOS – Logic, Language and Cognition Research GroupUniversitat Autónoma de BarcelonaCerdanyola del VallesSpain

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