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Goal Attributions in Biology: objective fact, anthropomorphic bias, or valuable heuristic?

Okasha, Samir (2022) Goal Attributions in Biology: objective fact, anthropomorphic bias, or valuable heuristic? [Preprint]

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Abstract

Goal-attributing statements – that attribute a goal or endpoint to an organismic activity or process – arise in three different biological contexts. The first context is the mid-20th century debate among biologists and philosophers over how to understand the apparent “goal-directedness” in the living world. The second context is the debate in cognitive ethology over whether non-human animals are capable of “goal-directed behavior”, that is, behavior that results from having a mental representation of a goal state. The third is the practice common in evolutionary biology of treating evolved traits, including behaviors, as means by which an organism furthers its overall goal of survival and reproduction (or maximization of fitness). In each of these contexts, a similar philosophical issue arises: are the goal-attributing statements literally true? And if not, do they represent an anthropomorphic bias that should be expunged from science, or a valuable heuristic?


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Okasha, SamirSamir.Okasha@bristol.ac.uk
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Specific Sciences > Biology > Function/Teleology
Depositing User: Dr Samir Okasha
Date Deposited: 31 May 2022 02:37
Last Modified: 31 May 2022 02:37
Item ID: 20701
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Specific Sciences > Biology > Function/Teleology
Date: 29 May 2022
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/20701

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