Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 547–565 | Cite as

Selected effects and causal role functions in the brain: the case for an etiological approach to neuroscience

Article

Abstract

Despite the voluminous literature on biological functions produced over the last 40 years, few philosophers have studied the concept of function as it is used in neuroscience. Recently, Craver (forthcoming; also see Craver 2001) defended the causal role theory against the selected effects theory as the most appropriate theory of function for neuroscience. The following argues that though neuroscientists do study causal role functions, the scope of that theory is not as universal as claimed. Despite the strong prima facie superiority of the causal role theory, the selected effects theory (when properly developed) can handle many cases from neuroscience with equal facility. It argues this by presenting a new theory of function that generalizes the notion of a ‘selection process’ to include processes such as neural selection, antibody selection, and some forms of learning—that is, to include structures that have been differentially retained as well as those that have been differentially reproduced. This view, called the generalized selected effects theory of function, will be defended from criticism and distinguished from similar views in the literature.

Keywords

Teleology Function Neuroscience Mechanism Selection Neural Darwinism 

References

  1. Allen C, Bekoff M (1995) Biological function, adaptation, and natural design. Philos Sci 62:609–622CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Amundson R, Lauder GV (1994) Function without purpose: the uses of causal role function in evolutionary biology. Biol Philos 9:443–469CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Antonini A, Stryker MP (1993) Rapid remodeling of axonal arbors in the visual cortex. Science 260:1819–1821CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bedau M (1992) Where’s the good in teleology? Philos Phenomenol Res 52:781–805CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bigelow J, Pargetter R (1987) Functions. J Philos 84:181–196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blair RJ (2003) Neurological basis of psychopathy. Br J Psychiatry 182:5–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boorse C (1976) Wright on functions. Philos Rev 85:70–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bouchard F (2008) Causal processes, fitness, and the differential persistence of lineages. Philos Sci 75:560–570CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bouchard F (forthcoming) How ecosystem evolution strengthens the case for functional pluralism. In: Huneman P (ed) Functions: selection and mechanisms. Synthese Library, Boston, pp 56–71Google Scholar
  10. Brandon RN (1990) Adaptation and environment. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  11. Brandon RN (forthcoming) A general case for functional pluralism. In: Huneman P (ed) Functions: selection and mechanisms. Synthese Library, Boston, pp 72–78Google Scholar
  12. Brown MC, Jansen JKS, Van Essen D (1976) Polyneural innervation of skeletal muscle in new-born rats and its elimination during maturation. J Physiol 261:387–422Google Scholar
  13. Burnet FM (1959) The clonal selection theory of acquired immunity. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  14. Changeux J-P, Danchin A (1976) Selective stabilization of developing synapses as a mechanism for the specification of neuronal networks. Nat 264:705–711CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Craver C (2001) Role functions, mechanisms, and hierarchy. Philos Sci 68:53–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Craver C (forthcoming) Functions and mechanisms: a perspectivalist view. In: Huneman P (ed) Functions: selection and mechanisms. Synthese Library, Boston, pp 199–220Google Scholar
  17. Crick F (1989) Neural Edelmanism. Trends Neurosci 12:240–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cziko G (1995) Without miracles: universal selection theory and the second Darwinian revolution. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  19. Darden L, Cain JA (1989) Selection type theories. Philos Sci 56:106–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Davies PS (2001) Norms of nature: naturalism and the nature of functions. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  21. Deacon TW (1989) The neural circuitry underlying primate calls and human language. Hum Evol 4:367–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Edelman G (1978) Group selection and phasic reentrant signaling: a theory of higher brain function. In: Edelman GE, Mountcastle VB (eds) The Mindful brain: cortical organization and the group-selective theory of higher brain function. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 51–100Google Scholar
  23. Edelman G (1987) Neural Darwinism: the theory of neuronal group selection. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  24. Garson J (2008) Function and teleology. In: Sarkar S, Plutynski A (eds) A companion to the philosophy of biology. Blackwell, Malden, MA, pp 525–549Google Scholar
  25. Garson J (2010) Schizophrenia and the dysfunctional brain. J Cog Sci 11:215–246Google Scholar
  26. Godfrey-Smith P (1992) Indication and adaptation. Synthese 92:283–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Godfrey-Smith P (1993) Functions: consensus without unity. Pac Philos Q 74:196–208Google Scholar
  28. Godfrey-Smith P (1994) A modern history theory of functions. Noûs 28:344–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Godfrey-Smith P (2007) Conditions for evolution by natural selection. J Philos 104:489–516Google Scholar
  30. Gould SJ, Lewontin RC (1979) The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: a critique of the adaptationist programme. Proc R Soc B 205(1161):581–598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Griffiths PE (1993) Functional analysis and proper function. Br J Philos Sci 44:409–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Griffiths PE (2006) Function, homology, and character individuation. Philos Sci 73:1–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Haier RJ, Karama S, Leyba L, Jung RE (2009) MRI assessment of cortical thickness and functional activity changes in adolescent girls following three months of practice on a visual-spatial task. BMC Res Notes 2:174–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hardcastle VG (1999) Understanding functions: a pragmatic approach. In: Hardcastle VG (ed) Where biology meets psychology: philosophical essays. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 27–43Google Scholar
  35. Hull DL, Langman RE, Glenn SS (2001) A general account of selection: biology, immunology and behavior. Behav Brain Sci 24:511–527CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kingsbury J (2008) Learning and selection. Biol Philos 23:493–507CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kitcher P (1993) Function and design. Midwest Stud Philos 18:379–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lewens T (2007) Functions. In: Matthen M, Stevens C, Gabbay DM, Thagard P, Woods J (eds) Philosophy of biology. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 525–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mace CA (1949 [1935]) Mechanical and teleological causation. In: Feigl H, Sellars W (eds) Readings in philosophical analysis. Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc, New York, pp 534–539Google Scholar
  40. MacLaurin J, Sterelny K (2008) What is biodiversity? University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  41. Mathews TJ, Ventura SJ (1997) Birth and fertility rates by educational attainment: United States, 1994. Mon Vital Statistics Rep 45(10):1–19Google Scholar
  42. Matteo M, Saborido C, Moreno A (2009) An organizational account of biological functions. British J Philos Sci 60:813–841CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McDowell JJ (2009) Behavioral and neural Darwinism: selectionist function and mechanism in adaptive behavior dynamics. Behav Process. doi:10.1016/j.beproc.2009.11.011
  44. McLaughlin P (2001) What functions explain: Functional explanation and self-reproducing systems. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  45. Millikan RG (1984) Language, thought, and other biological categories. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  46. Millikan RG (1989) In defense of proper functions. Philos Sci 56:288–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mitchell SD (1995) Function, fitness, and disposition. Biol Philos 10:39–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Neander K (1983) Abnormal psychobiology. Dissertation, La TrobeGoogle Scholar
  49. Neander K (1991) Functions as selected effects: the conceptual analyst’s defense. Philos Sci 58:168–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Okasha S (2003) Does the concept of “clade selection” make sense? Philos Sci 70:739–751CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Papineau D (1987) Reality and representation. Blackwell, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  52. Papineau D (1993) Philosophical naturalism. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  53. Petersen SE, Fox PT, Snyder AZ, Raichle ME (1990) Activation of extrastriate and frontal cortical areas by visual words and word-like stimuli. Sci 249:1041–1044CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pettmann C, Henderson CE (1998) Neuronal cell death. Neuron 20:647–653CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Prior EW (1985) What is wrong with etiological accounts of biological function? Pac Philos Q 66:310–328Google Scholar
  56. Purves D (1994) Neural activity and the growth of the brain. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  57. Purves D, Lichtman JW (1980) Elimination of synapses in the developing nervous system. Sci 210:153–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Quartz SR, Sejnowski TJ (1997) The neural basis of cognitive development: a constructivist manifesto. Behav Brain Sci 20:537–596Google Scholar
  59. Rajewsky K (1996) Clonal selection and learning in the antibody system. Nat 381:751–758CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Robins SK, Craver CF (2009) Biological clocks: explaining with models of mechanisms. In: Bickle J (ed) The oxford handbook of philosophy and neuroscience. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 41–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Ruse ME (1971) Functional statements in biology. Philos Sci 38:87–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Sarkar S (2005) Molecular models of life: Philosophical papers on molecular biology. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  63. Schaffner K (1993) Discovery and explanation in biology and medicine. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  64. Scheffler I (1958) Thoughts on teleology. Br J Philos Sci 9:265–284Google Scholar
  65. Schlaggar BL, McCandliss BD (2007) Development of neural systems for reading. Ann Rev Neurosci 30:475–503CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Schultz W (1998) Predictive reward signal of dopamine neurons. J Neurophysiol 80:1–27Google Scholar
  67. Schultz W, Dickenson A (2000) Neuronal coding of prediction errors. Ann Rev Neurosci 23:473–500CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Schwartz PH (1999) Proper function and recent selection. Philos Sci 66:S210–S222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Sober E (1984) The nature of selection. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  70. Walsh DM (1996) Fitness and function. British J Philos Sci 47:553–574CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Walsh DM, Ariew A (1996) A taxonomy of functions. Can J Philos 26:493–514Google Scholar
  72. Wiesel TN, Hubel DH (1963) Single-cell responses in striate cortex of kittens deprived of vision in one eye. J Neurophysiol 26:1003–1017Google Scholar
  73. Wimsatt WC (1972) Teleology and the logical structure of function statements. Stud Hist Philos Sci 3:1–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Wong ROL, Lichtman JW (2002) Synapse elimination. In: Squire LR, Bloom FE, McConnell SK, Roberts JL, Spitzer NC, Zigmond MJ (eds) Fundamental neuroscience, 2nd edn. Academic Press, Amsterdam, pp 533–554Google Scholar
  75. Wouters A (2003) Four notions of biological function. Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci 34:633–668CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Wright L (1973) Functions. Philos Rev 82:139–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyHunter College of the City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations