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The Explanatory Value of Inclusive Fitness for Evolutionary Theory

  • Author(s): Rubin, Hannah
  • Advisor(s): Huttegger, Simon
  • et al.

At the heart of evolutionary theory is the concept of 'fitness', which is, standardly, an organism's reproductive success. Many evolutionary theorists argue, however, that to explain the evolution of social traits, such as altruism, we must use a different notion of fitness. This 'inclusive fitness', which includes the reproductive success of relatives, is seen as indispensable for studying social evolution. Recently, however, both biologists and philosophers have critically scrutinized its significance. My thesis explores the explanatory value of inclusive fitness, while attempting to resolve significant conceptual confusions. I argue that although inclusive fitness is not necessary for evolutionary explanations, it can nonetheless provide an extremely useful way of conceptualizing the evolutionary process.

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