Edmond Goblot’s (1858–1935) Selected Effects Theory of Function: A Reappraisal

Philosophy of Science 88 (5):1210-1220 (2021)
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Abstract

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the French philosopher of science Edmond Goblot wrote three prescient papers on function and teleology. He advanced the remarkable thesis that functions are, as a matter of conceptual analysis, selected effects. He also argued that “selection” must be understood broadly to include both evolutionary natural selection and intelligent design. Here, I do three things. First, I give an overview of Goblot’s thought. Second, I identify his core thesis about function. Third, I argue that, despite its ingenuity, Goblot’s expansive construal of function cannot be right. Still, Goblot deserves long-overdue credit for his work.

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Justin Garson
Hunter College (CUNY)

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