What Functions Explain

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  • The title \"What Functions Explain\" reflects the way in which Peter McLaughlin addresses the topic of functional explanation. The aim of his discussion is not to assess which philosophical account of functional explanation is the right one or how the concept of functional explanation should best be explicated. Instead, McLaughlin announces a study in descriptive metaphysics. He takes common uses of the term function and tries to figure out what metaphysical presumptions are made about the things to be explained. When we explain something functionally what do we presuppose about the referent? (Maybe that it is a living thing or made by a living thing, or that it is a system that has values, or perhaps that it figures in a process of heritable variation?) This is what the title of McLaughlin's book means.

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    © 2002 I. Brigandt et al. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
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    • Brigandt, I. (2002). What Functions Explain. Functional Explanation and Self-Reproducing Systems, Peter McLaughlin. Erkenntnis, 57(1), 123-126.
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