In a sentence from SEP(https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epiphenomenalism/), I have a problem reading the following sentences:

"Thus, it is easily understood how certain kinds of neural events can be selected for." "Indeed, if neural causes of behavior are selected for, and are sufficient causes, there cannot be any further effect attributed to natural selection."

In the sentence I find the expression 'be selected for', but I don't understand why there should be 'for' in the expression.

In the dictionary I use, 'select for A' means to choose something, 'for A', but I can't find any 'A's in the sentences.

  1. Is there any other usage with 'be selected for'?
  2. If not, What was 'for' for in those sentences?

1 Answer 1


The phrase "be selected for" is specialized terminology that relates to the phenomenon of natural selection. Traits that assist organisms in successful reproduction are said to be "selected for" while traits that reduce the likelihood of reproduction are said to be "selected against."

In your example, the argument is that certain kinds of neural events have a beneficial impact on a person's reproductive success.

  • Yes and further to Katy's Answer, what is merely "selected" describes a straight choice of predetermined options: fight or flight; blonde or brunette; good or bad, if you must. By contrast, what is "selected for" goes back several steps in the chain of evolutionary logistics, and describes the process by which those options came to be offered. I might select blondes or brunettes and very differently, the process of evolution selected for blondes in the West and brunettes in the East; white or black, brown or red or yellow skin here, there and wherever. Dec 24, 2021 at 3:04

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