Publication 6447

Wuketits F. M. (2006) Evolutionary epistemology: The non-adaptationist approach. In: Gontier N., van Bendegem J. P. & Aerts D. (eds.) Evolutionary epistemology, language and culture: A non-adaptationist, systems theoretical approach. Springer-Verlag, Dordrecht: 33–46. Fulltext at
Earlier versions of evolutionary epistemology were based on – or at least strongly informed by – the adaptationist paradigm. It is for this reason that advocates of evolutionary epistemol- ogy have been frequently criticized by those who have adopted an organismic perspective in evolutionary thinking. Evolutionists defending the view that any living system – including all its characters at the anatomical as well as the behavioral level – can be sufficiently explained in terms of adaptation, have neglected the (somehow trivial) fact that organisms are active systems that do not entirely depend on their respective environment(s). Meanwhile, however, a systems-theoretical approach to understanding living beings and their evolution has made clear that (1) organisms and their environment(s) have a common history and have not evolved independent of each other, (2) any living system and its environment(s) are linked together by a feedback principle, and (3) adaptability is not defined by the environment but the or- ganism itself. This has serious consequences for evolutionary epistemology. In this paper, I outline a non-adaptationist version of this epistemology. I also briefly discuss its philosophical implications. The main focus is the problem of realism.

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