PhilSci Archive

Behavioral Traits, the Intentional Stance, and Biological Functions

Weber, Marcel (2008) Behavioral Traits, the Intentional Stance, and Biological Functions. In: [2008] Biological Explanations of Behavior: Philosophical Perspectives (Hannover, Germany; 12-15 June, 2008).

[img] Microsoft Word (.doc)
Download (67Kb)

    Abstract

    It has been claimed that the intentional stance is necessary to individuate behavioral traits. This thesis, while clearly false, points to two interesting sets of problems concerning biological explanations of behavior: The first is a general in the philosophy of science: the theory-ladenness of observation. The second problem concerns the principles of trait individuation, which is a general problem in philosophy of biology. After discussing some alternatives, I show that one way of individuating the behavioral traits of an organism is by a special use of the concept of biological function, as understood in an enriched causal role (not selected effect) sense. On this view, a behavioral trait is essentially a special kind of regularity, namely a regularity that is produced by some regulatory mechanism. Regulatory mechanisms always require goal states, which can only be provided by functional considerations. As an example from actual (as opposed to folk) science, I examine the case of social behavior in nematodes. I show that the attempt to explain this phenomenon actually transformed it. This supports the view that scientific explanation does not explain an explanandum phenomenon that is given prior to the explanation; rather, the explanandum is changed by the explanation. This means that there could be a plurality of stances that have some heuristic value initially, but which will be abandoned in favor of a functional characterization eventually.


    Export/Citation:EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII/Text Citation (Chicago) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
    Social Networking:

    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
    Keywords: behavioral traits, social behavior, intentionality, folk psychology, biological functions, theory-ladenness
    Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
    Conferences and Volumes: [2008] Biological Explanations of Behavior: Philosophical Perspectives (Hannover, Germany; 12-15 June, 2008)
    Depositing User: Marcel Weber
    Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2008
    Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 11:16
    Item ID: 4055
    URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/4055

    Actions (login required)

    View Item

    Document Downloads