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Millikan, Ruth, , . In Defense of Proper Functions
1989, Philosophy of Science, 56 (1989): 288-302.
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Added by: Jamie Collin, Contributed by:

Abstract: I defend the historical definition of “function” originally given in my Language, Thought and Other Biological Categories (1984a). The definition was not offered in the spirit of conceptual analysis but is more akin to a theoretical definition of “function”. A major theme is that nonhistorical analyses of “function” fail to deal adequately with items that are not capable of performing their functions.

Comment: This paper is something of a classic, and would be useful in a course on philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, philosophy of mind or philosophy of language. Though the paper is not technical, it is not easy and would be most suitable for advanced undergraduate or graduate courses. The paper also functions as a good example of an important attempt to naturalise a central normative notion.

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Millikan, Ruth Garrett, , . Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories
1984, MIT Press.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Juan R. Loaiza

Publisher’s Note: Beginning with a general theory of function applied to body organs, behaviors, customs, and both inner and outer representations, Ruth Millikan argues that the intentionality of language can be described without reference to speaker intentions and that an understanding of the intentionality of thought can and should be divorced from the problem of understanding consciousness. The results support a realist theory of truth and of universals, and open the way for a nonfoundationalist and nonholistic approach to epistemology.

Comment: It is one of the classic in philosophy of mind, philosophy of biology, and even philosophy of science.

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