Defining dysfunction: Natural selection, design, and drawing a line

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

54 Scopus citations


Accounts of the concepts of function and dysfunction have not adequately explained what factors determine the line between low-normal function and dysfunction. I call the challenge of doing so the line-drawing problem. Previous approaches emphasize facts involving the action of natural selection (Wakefield 1992a, 1999a, 1999b) or the statistical distribution of levels of functioning in the current population (Boorse 1977, 1997). I point out limitations of these two approaches and present a solution to the line-drawing problem that builds on the second one.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)364-385
Number of pages22
JournalPhilosophy of Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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