"Two" many optimalities

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5 Citations (Scopus)


In evolutionary biology, a trait is said to be optimal if it maximizes the fitness of the organism, that is, if the trait allows the organism to survive and reproduce better than any other competing trait would. In engineering, a design is said to be optimal if it complies with its functional requirements as well as possible. Cognitive science is both a biological and engineering discipline and hence it uses both notions of optimality. Unfortunately, the lack of a clear methodological stance on this tissue has made it common for researchers to conflate these two kinds of optimality. In this paper, I argue that a strict distinction must kept in order to avoid inaccurate assumptions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-270
JournalBiology and Philosophy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2002


  • Adaptation
  • Cognitive science
  • Engineering optimality
  • Evolutionary explanation
  • Evolutionary optimality
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Fitness
  • Functional mesh
  • Optimality
  • Reverse engineering


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