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Fitness: Philosophical Problems

Ramsey, Grant and Pence, Charles H. (2013) Fitness: Philosophical Problems. eLS.

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Fitness plays many roles throughout evolutionary theory, from a measure of populations in the wild to a central element in abstract theoretical presentations of natural selection. It has thus been the subject of an extensive philosophical literature, which has primarily centered on the way to understand the relationship between fitness values and reproductive outcomes. If fitness is a probabilistic or statistical quantity, how is it to be defined in general theoretical contexts? How can it be measured? Can a single conceptual model for fitness be offered that applies in all biological cases, or must fitness measures be case-specific? Philosophers have explored these questions over the last several decades, largely in the context of an influential definition of fitness proposed in the late 1970s: the propensity interpretation. This interpretation as first described undeniably suffers from significant difficulties, and debate regarding the tenability of amendments and alternatives to it remains unsettled.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Pence, Charles
Keywords: environment, evolution, fitness, drift, measurement, natural selection, propensity interpretation, tautology
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Depositing User: Charles H. Pence
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2013 14:09
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2013 14:09
Item ID: 9833
Journal or Publication Title: eLS
Publisher: Wiley
Official URL:
DOI or Unique Handle:
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Date: 2013

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