Optimality Models and the Propensity Interpretation of Fitness

  • Ariel Jonathan RofféEmail author
  • Santiago Ginnobili
Regular Article


The propensity account of fitness intends to solve the classical tautologicity issue by identifying fitness with a disposition, the ability to survive and reproduce. As proponents recognized early on, this account requires operational independence from actual reproductive success to avoid circularity and vacuousness charges. They suggested that operational independence is achieved by measuring fitness values through optimality models. Our goal in this article is to develop this suggestion. We show that one plausible procedure by which these independent operationalizations could be thought to take place, and which is in accordance with what is said in the optimality literature, is unsound. We provide two independent lines of reasoning to show this. We then provide a sketch of a more adequate account of the role of optimality models in evolutionary contexts and draw some consequences.


Fitness Natural selection Optimality models Propensity interpretation of fitness Population genetics Optimal foraging theory 



This work has been funded by the research projects PUNQ 1401/15 and SAI 827-223/19 (National University of Quilmes, Argentina), UNTREF 32/15 255 (Universidad Nacional Tres de Febrero, Argentina) and UBACyT 20020170200106BA (Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina).


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Estudios de Filosofía e Historia de la Ciencia (CEFHIC-UNQ-CONICET)Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA), Universidad Tres de Febrero (UNTREF)BernalArgentina

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