A General Case for Functional Pluralism

  • Robert N. BrandonEmail author
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 363)


Using examples from functional morphology and evolution, Amundson and Lauder (Biol Philos 9: 443–469, 1994) argued for functional pluralism in biology. More specifically, they argued that both causal role (CR) analyses of function and selected effects (SE) analyses played necessary parts in evolutionary biology, broadly construed, and that neither sort of analysis was reducible to the other. Rather than thinking of these two accounts of function as rivals, they argued that they were instead complimentary. Frédéric Bouchard (Chap. 5, this volume) attempts to make that case stronger using an interesting example—the evolution of ecosystems. This case is interesting in that it involves the sudden appearance of things with functions, which also evolve, but which do not, at least initially, have a selected effect etiology. I am in complete agreement with the above-mentioned positions. Here, I take a different tack in arguing for functional pluralism. I abstract away not only from the details of biological practice but even from the details of the CR and SE accounts to argue for a more general pluralism of historical and ahistorical concepts.


Causal Role Conceptual Scheme Adaptive Trait Continental Collision Causal History 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Biology and PhilosophyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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