Is 'function' a Deontic Modal Word?

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Beebe, Michael
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In this paper I develop a theory of 'function' and function as a deontic modal word and phenomenon. Kratzer’s account of the semantics for the deontic modals is invoked and using her approach a formal schema for the semantics of 'function'-sentences is proposed. My account of function is a modalized and extended version of Cummins’ systems-type account of function. In the biological and physical sciences, on this account, function is a complex empirical deontic modal property. It is built on the property of X’s doing Y well enough to enable Z, which is implicitly deontic because of the evaluative but nonetheless empirical in its biological and physical applications. This account of function resolves many of the traditional puzzles about biological and physical function, and extends naturally to include the other types of function. With a variant treatment of the semantics, this account is argued also to apply to mathematical function, where it is shown to be interestingly related to Frege’s account of function.