Archives For Justin Garson

Author Information: Pablo Schyfter, University of Edinburgh,

Schyfter, Pablo. “Function, Functional Status, and the Primacy of the Collective: A Reply to Garson.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 7 (2014): 38-43.

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Justin Garson’s reply to “Function by Agreement” is a clear and compelling analysis of many ideas that form part of my perspective on biological functions. It is also an excellent point of departure for fruitful discussion. In his piece, Garson aims to accomplish three tasks. First, he seeks to clarify the distinction between my perspective and Robert Cummins’ ‘functional analysis’ approach (1973, 1975) ­– a theory with which my own admittedly has many similarities. Second, he asks why any differences benefit the sociology of knowledge, as I claim they do. Last, he offers a spirited defence of the etiological theory, a perspective that undergoes criticism in my original argument. [1]  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Justin Garson, Hunter College, City University of New York,

Garson, Justin. “Realism, Conventionalism, and Irrealism about Biological Functions: A Reply to Schyfter.”Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3, no. 6 (2014): 77-81.

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As a philosopher of biology who works on the topic of biological function, I found Schyfter’s article, “Function by Agreement,” intriguing and challenging. Above all, I was happy to see the topic get some interdisciplinary attention. There are three points I’d like to raise; two are questions and one is a comment. First, I wondered whether Schyfter’s “communitarian” approach to biological function really differs from one well-established tradition in the philosophy of biology spearheaded by Robert Cummins (1975). Second, if it does differ, why and how is that difference particularly beneficial to the sociology of scientific knowledge, as he claims? Finally, I wanted to defend a theory of function that Schyfter criticizes, the “etiological” theory, to which I am quite sympathetic (Garson 2014, particularly Chapter 7, and references therein).  Continue Reading…