- Jan 2019
Exaptation refers to evolutionary develop-ments beyond those selected for their role by adaptation alone.24It is where a trait emergesfor one function that is coopted afterwards for another.
The term exaptation is a helpful and essential way of understanding what Rickert is after in this essay. The word comes from evolutionary biology.
It's easiest for me to understand etymologically. Adaptation shares the -apt root, that is, "being fitting." But whereas Ad-aptation is ad or "toward" being fit or useful, Ex-aptation is ex or "away" or "out of" being fit or useful.
Notice the huge difference: fit-ness doesn't happen because an organism or, here, a culture, tries to achieve some goal it has already recognized. Rather, the organism (or culture) stumbles toward fit-ness by repurposing [N.B. I need help here. "Recycling?", "Fortuitously finding use?"] traits (practices, rituals, etc.) which were formerly "apt" for something else.