The final copy of the conference schedule is now available, and here is the abstract for the afternoon plenary session:
Biological Function: A Natural Dilemma
Joseph Long (Florida State University)
In Norms of Nature (2001), Paul Sheldon Davies presented an error theory regarding normative functions, that is, an argument for nihilism about functions and a means of explaining away experts’ believing that biological traits have functions. In 2009, Matteo Mossio, Cristian Saborido, and Alvaro Moreno (MSM) presented a theory of function thought resistant to Davies’s error theory. After describing Davies’s error theory, I restate it, showing it to be more powerful than initially thought. Next, I demonstrate that MSM’s theory of function, although intriguing, can nonetheless be captured by Davies’s error theory. Finally, I argue that Davies’s error theory can be resisted but only by embracing “functional intuitionism,” which conjoins features of MSM’s theory with features of ethical intuitionism.