Between-Discipline Pluralism vs. Within-Discipline Pluralism. Some Issues Concerning a Contemporary Debate in the Philosophy of Biology


  • Claudio Davini University of Pisa, Itay



Biological functions, Between-discipline pluralism, Within-discipline pluralism, Selected effects theory


Between-discipline pluralism and within-discipline pluralism are the two sides of the contemporary debate on function pluralism in biology. According to between-discipline pluralism, two of the most respected philosophical analyses of function-talk in biology – the selected effects theory and the causal role theory – are suitable to different branches of biology. According to within-discipline pluralism, on the contrary, it is possible to uncover these theories in any branch of biology. In this article, besides introducing the debate involving between-discipline pluralism and within-discipline pluralism, I will argue that the cause of within-discipline pluralism can be served more effectively by an argument based on Neander’s reflections on biological normativity rather than on Garson’s generalised selected effects theory. Despite the fact that the latter is the first proponent of within-discipline pluralism and the former is not directly concerned with the task of defending within-discipline pluralism; indeed, Garson’s position is affected by a serious shortcoming – which stems from the generalised selected effects theory’s presumption that we can treat evolutionary functions and ontogenetic functions as if they were of the same exact kind. At the end of the paper, I will build another argument to support the case of within-discipline pluralism.




How to Cite

Davini, Claudio. “Between-Discipline Pluralism Vs. Within-Discipline Pluralism. Some Issues Concerning a Contemporary Debate in the Philosophy of Biology”. Acta Philosophica 33, no. 1 (March 21, 2024): 85–102. Accessed July 14, 2024.