There are many controversies about the nature of natural selection. I argue that the majority of them can be traced back to a simple and basic distinction about whether the theory of natural selection is about trait types or trait tokens. I argue that much of the controversy about selection is due to the fact that this difference has not been acknowledged. The aim of this paper is to trace the consequences of the difference between these two ways of thinking about selection. If we take selection to be type-selection, we cannot explain why individual organisms have the traits they have with reference to selection processes. In turn, if we take selection to be token-selection, we have to reinterpret or even give up the concept of fitness. These considerations, taken together, should persuade us to think of selection as token-selection.
Bence Nanay is Professor of Philosophy and BOF Research Professor at the University of Antwerp, and Senior Research Associate at Peterhouse, Cambridge University. He is the author of Between Perception and Action (OP, forthcoming) and Aesthetics as Philosophy of Perception (Oxford UP, forthcoming), and editor of Perceiving the World (Oxford UP, 2010). His papers on philosophy of mind and on philosophy of biology has appeared in journals like Journal of Philosophy, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Philosophyical Quarterly, Philosophical Studies, Analysis, Synthese, Erkenntnis, Ratio, European Journal of Philosophy, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, Biology & Philosophy, Monist, Perspectives on Science, Evolution and Cognition, etc.