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Summary

Kant’s main work on teleology is contained in the Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790), especially in the second of its two main parts, “Critique of the Teleological Power of Judgment”. Most of this material is dedicated to analyzing judgment of complex systems as teleological by nature (rather than design) – and arguing that, although we can never have theoretical knowledge that anything in nature is teleological, such judgment is nonetheless necessary and beneficial for us. Kant also connects his analysis and these conclusions with his positions on religion and morality.

Key works

Responses to Kant’s treatment of teleology are especially prominent in post-Kantian German philosophy. For example, Hegel emphasizes in his Science of Logic (1812-1816) the importance of Kant’s analysis of natural teleology, but argues that we can have knowledge of real natural teleology. For comprehensive references, see the excellent online Ginsborg 2008. Some representative and important recent works are as follows: On teleology and biology, two especially important recent interpretations are Ginsborg’s (especially Ginsborg 2004) and McLaughlin’s (McLaughlin 1990). On our supposed need for teleological judgment of nature, see Guyer 1990 and Ginsborg 1990. On the place of this material within the project of the third Critique, see Zuckert 2007. On the connection to morality and religion, see Guyer 2000

Introductions 1. Ginsborg 2006 2. Ginsborg 2008
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  1. Kant as a Carpenter of Reason: The Highest Good and Systematic Coherence.Alexander T. Englert - 2024 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy:1-29.
    What is the highest good actually good for in Kant’s third Critique? While there are well-worked out answers to this question in the literature that focus on the highest good’s practical importance, this paper argues that there is an important function for the highest good that has to do exclusively with contemplation. This important function becomes clear once one notices that coherent [konsequent] thinking, for Kant, was synonymous with "bündiges" thinking, and that both are connected with the highest good in (...)
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  2. Kantian Naturalism.E. Sonny Elizondo - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy.
    I offer a qualified defence of Kant’s natural teleological argument, that is, his inference from the (un)naturalness of an act to its (im)morality. Though I reject many of Kant’s conclusions, I think the form of argument he uses to support these conclusions is not as wrong-headed as it might at first appear. I consider and answer two objections: first, that the argument is inconsistent with Kant’s moral rationalism; and second, that the argument is inconsistent with post-Kantian developments in science. I (...)
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  3. Kant's Favorite Argument for Our Immortality: The Teleological Argument.Alexander T. Englert - 2023 - Res Philosophica 100 (3):357-388.
    Kant’s claim that we must postulate the immortality of the soul is polarizing. While much attention has been paid to two standard arguments in its defense (one moral-psychological, the other rational), I contend that a favorite argument of Kant’s from the apogee of his critical period, namely, the teleological argument, deserves renewed attention. This paper reconstructs it and exhibits what makes it unique (though not necessarily superior) in relation to the other arguments. In particular, its form (as third-personal or descriptive, (...)
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  4. Organism in Kant.Jennifer Mensch - 2021 - In The Cambridge Kant Lexicon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 320-322.
    Kant was well versed in many of the debates taking place in the life sciences during his day. One of the more central areas of contention concerned the proper means for discriminating between material bodies composed of organised parts (like clocks or automatons) and living material bodies composed of organised parts (like plants and animals). For many theorists, it seemed clear that the physically organised structure of a body was distinct from any vital forces responsible for the life processes or (...)
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  5. Generation in Kant.Jennifer Mensch - 2021 - In The Cambridge Kant Lexicon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 197-199.
    There is a collection of words being used by Kant when it comes to his discussion of the various processes associated with the English word “generation.” The closest German word, Erzeugung, can be used either generically—to form an idea, to create an effect or event—or as part of a scientific theory. Kant used Erzeugung in both senses repeatedly across his corpus and referred from his earliest works to scientific theories regarding cosmological formation, the generation of earthquakes and volcanoes, and the (...)
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  6. Epigenesis in Kant.Jennifer Mensch - 2021 - In The Cambridge Kant Lexicon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 173-174.
    Kant’s use of epigenesis differed according to the context within his remarks were made and can be seen to be falling within three main types of consideration. The first of these considered epigenesis as a theory of biological generation. A second group of related uses of the term epigenesis consider whether the biological account impacts discussions of the transference of soul from parent to child. The third type of consideration stems from Kant’s efforts, primarily in the 1770s, to use epigenesis (...)
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  7. Dilek Huseyinzadegan, Kant's Nonideal Theory of Politics (Northwestern University Press, 2019). [REVIEW]Jennifer Mensch - 2021 - SGIR Review 4 (1-2):127-132.
    In Dilek Huseyinzadegan’s analysis of Kant’s ‘impure’ politics what we have is a startling, innovative, and ultimately convincing portrait of Kant’s systematic attention to the material conditions underlying the everyday world of political subjects. Much as theorists have sought to enrich scholarly discussions of Kant’s moral philosophy by way of attention to Kant’s ‘practical anthropology’—the empirical counterpart to an a priori formal account of morals—in this book Huseyinzadegan provides us with a parallel look at Kant’s ‘political anthropology.’ By paying close (...)
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  8. Kant on Natural Ends and the Science of Life.Thomas Marré - 2023 - Res Philosophica 100 (2):273-294.
    In this article I argue that the mechanical inexplicability of natural ends in the third Critique is best understood against the background of a fairly traditional picture of the metaphysics of living things, one embraced by Kant himself. On this picture, the distinctive unity of a living thing was to be explained by a soul, form, or monad. The constraints placed on the understanding in the first Critique, however, make such an explanation impossible: because the principle of a living thing (...)
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  9. Teleologische Erhabenheit der Vernunft bei Kant: Ein paradoxer Beweis der Einheit der Vernunft aus der Dualität des Erhabenen.Paula Mariel Órdenes Azúa - 2023 - De Gruyter.
    Diese Arbeit zeigt, dass die Dualität des mathematischen und dynamischen Erhabenen bei Kant auch dem Zweck der dritten Kritik dient, die Kluft zwischen den Gebieten der Natur und der Freiheit zu schließen. In der Sekundärliteratur zu Kant wird das Erhabene oft als Anhang des Schönen oder aufgrund seiner mehrfachen Dualitäten als Bruch in Kants Ansatz angesehen. Dies geschieht, weil solche Interpretationen die Elemente der Theorie des Erhabenen atomisch und nicht systematisch rekonstruieren. Im Gegensatz dazu wird in dieser Arbeit mittels der (...)
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  10. Kant on the Origins of Humanity and Moral Education.Olga Lenczewska - forthcoming - Journal of the History of Ideas.
    Kant’s views on human history have been widely studied, but commentators have rarely discussed his speculative account of humanity’s origins, assuming that it does not neatly fit into his critical philosophy. This paper challenges this assumption by defending two claims. First, Kant’s major essay on this topic, “Conjectural Beginning of Human History,” is a key component of his teleological understanding of human history and should be incorporated into the study of his critical philosophy. Second, the story of humanity’s origins informs (...)
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  11. “Reason's sympathy” and others' ends in Kant.Benjamin Vilhauer - 2021 - European Journal of Philosophy 30 (1):96-112.
    Kant’s notion of (what I will call) rational sympathy solves a problem about how we can voluntarily fulfill our imperfect duty to adopt those ends of others which have value only because they have been set by rational agents, ends which I will refer to as merely permissible ends (MPEs). Others’ MPEs are individuated in terms of their own concepts of their MPEs, and we can only adopt their MPEs in terms of their concepts, since to adopt them in terms (...)
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  12. Two Conceptions of Kantian Autonomy.Seniye Tilev - 2021 - In Camilla Serck-Hanssen & Beatrix Himmelmann (eds.), The Court of Reason: Proceedings of the 13th International Kant Congress. De Gruyter. pp. 1579-1586.
    How to interpret autonomy plays a crucial role that leads to different readings in Kant’s moral metaphysics, philosophy of religion and moral psychology. In this paper I argue for a two-layered conception of autonomy with varying degrees of justification for each: autonomy as a capacity and autonomy as a paragon-like paradigm. I argue that all healthy rational humans possess the inalienable capacity of autonomy, i. e. share the universal ground for the communicability of objective basic moral principles. This initial understanding (...)
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  13. Ian Proops, The Fiery Test of Critique: A Reading of Kant’s Dialectic. [REVIEW]Aaron Wells - 2022 - Philosophical Quarterly 72 (3):791-93.
  14. Kant, Schelling and the Organization of Matter.Dalia Nassar - 2021 - In Gerad Gentry (ed.), Kantian Legacies in German Idealism. New York, NY: Routledge.
    Over the last two decades there has been a significant increase of interest in Schelling’s philosophy, and in particular his philosophy of nature. However, even the most generous of Schelling’s interpreters are confused by one of Schelling’s key theses: his view that nature as a whole (including non-living nature) is “organized,” and his related rejection of the hard-and-fast distinction between living and non-living. My aim is to offer an explanation of these two related points. Given that Schelling regards all of (...)
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  15. Paula Órdenes and Anna Pickhan (eds), Teleologische Reflexion in Kants Philosophie, Wiesbaden: Springer, 2019 Pp. ix + 302 ISBN 9783658236939 (pbk) €39.99. [REVIEW]Anton Kabeshkin - 2020 - Kantian Review 25 (3):508-513.
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  16. Michel Chaouli, Thinking with Kant's Critique of Judgment Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017 Pp. 315ISBN 9780674971363 (hbk) $44.56. [REVIEW]Moran Godess-Riccitelli - 2020 - Kantian Review 25 (2):313-317.
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  17. Analogical Reflection as a Source for the Science of Life: Kant and the Possibility of the Biological Sciences.Dalia Nassar - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 2016 (58):57-66.
    In contrast to the previously widespread view that Kant's work was largely in dialogue with the physical sciences, recent scholarship has highlighted Kant's interest in and contributions to the life sciences. Scholars are now investigating the extent to which Kant appealed to and incorporated insights from the life sciences and considering the ways he may have contributed to a new conception of living beings. The scholarship remains, however, divided in its interest: historians of science are concerned with the content of (...)
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  18. Kant’s World Concept of Philosophy and Cosmopolitanism.Courtney Fugate - 2019 - Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 101 (4):535-583.
    The goal of this paper is to better understand Kant’s conception of philosophy as a “world concept”, which is at the heart of the Architectonic of Pure Reason. This is pursued in two major parts. The first evaluates the textual foundation for reading Kant’s world concept of philosophy as cosmopolitanism and concludes that he most probably never himself equated philosophy as a world concept with any form of cosmopolitanism. The second major part of the paper clarifies this concept of philosophy (...)
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  19. Is intuitive teleological reasoning promiscuous?Johan de Smedt & Helen de Cruz - 2019 - In William Gibson, Dan O'Brien & Marius Turda (eds.), Teleology and Modernity. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 185-202.
    Humans have a tendency to reason teleologically. This tendency is more pronounced under time pressure, in people with little formal schooling and in patients with Alzheimer’s. This has led some cognitive scientists of religion, notably Kelemen, to call intuitive teleological reasoning promiscuous, by which they mean teleology is applied to domains where it is unwarranted. We examine these claims using Kant’s idea of the transcendental illusion in the first Critique and his views on the regulative function of teleological reasoning in (...)
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  20. Rudolf Langthaler: Kant über den Glauben und die „Selbsterhaltung der Vernunft“. Sein Weg von der „Kritik“ zur „eigentlichen Metaphysik“ - und darüber hinaus. 398 Seiten. Freiburg/München, Alber 2018; ISBN 978-3-49548985-7. [REVIEW]Robert Theis - 2019 - Kant Studien 110 (3):519-525.
  21. Oxford Handbook of Kant.Andrew Stephenson & Anil Gomes (eds.) - forthcoming - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  22. Kant on Human Progress and Global Inequality.Fausto Corvino - 2019 - Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 75 (1):477-512.
    In this article I discuss whether from Kant’s philosophy we can determine a moral duty to deal with global inequality, a problem that in Kant’s time was inexistent since it is a modern trend resulting from the industrial revolution. In doing this, I consider three main issues related to Kant’s thought and partially re-developed by contemporary authors: the individual moral duty to collaborate with nature’s purposiveness, which is aimed at attaining perpetual peace through humans fully developing their capacities, the normative (...)
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  23. Organisms and the form of freedom in Kant's third Critique.Naomi Fisher - 2019 - European Journal of Philosophy 27 (1):55-74.
    In the second half of the third Critique, Kant develops a new form of judgment peculiar to organisms: teleological judgment. In the Appendix to this text, Kant argues that we must regard the final, unconditioned end of creation as human freedom, due to reason's demand that we regard nature as a system of ends. In this paper, I offer a novel interpretation of this argument, according to which judgments of freedom within nature are possible as instances of teleological judgment. Just (...)
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  24. Kant-Lexikon: Studienausgabe.Stefano Bacin, Georg Mohr, Marcus Willaschek & Jürgen Stolzenberg - 2017 - Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter.
    The Kant-Lexikon is a guide to the philosophical work of Immanuel Kant and incorporates the latest scholarship. This textbook edition presents the most important entries contained in the comprehensive, three-volume lexicon released in 2015.
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  25. Hannah Ginsborg, The Normativity of Nature: Essays on Kant’s Critique of Judgement Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015 Pp. 364 ISBN 9780199547982 £25.00. [REVIEW]Andrew Jones - 2016 - Kantian Review 21 (3):510-516.
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  26. P. Müller, Transzendentale Kritik und moralische Teleologie. Eine Auseinandersetzung mit den zeitgenössischen Transformationen der Transzendentalphilosophie im Hinblick auf Kant. [REVIEW]W. Steinbeck - 1988 - Kant Studien 79 (1):107.
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  27. Baeumler, Alfred, Kants Kritik der Urteilskraft. Ihre Geschichte und Systematik. [REVIEW]Friedrich Seifert - 1927 - Kant Studien 32:381.
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  28. Kroner, Zweck und Gesetz in der Biologie. [REVIEW]Bruno Bauch - 1913 - Kant Studien 18:527.
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  29. K. Düsing, Die Teleologie in Kants Weltbegriff. [REVIEW]W. Steinbeck - 1972 - Kant Studien 63 (4):511.
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  30. H. Mertens, Kommentar zur Ersten Einleitung in Kants Kritik der Urteilskraft. [REVIEW] E. Sandberg - 1979 - Kant Studien 70 (1):89.
  31. Eine Neuausgabe von Stadlers Schrift über Kants Teleologie.Emil Lorenz - 1912 - Kant Studien 17:159.
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  32. W. Bartuschat, Zum systematischen Ort von Kants Kritik der Urteilskraft. [REVIEW]K. Düsing - 1974 - Kant Studien 65 (2):222.
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  33. A. W. Wood , Self and Nature in Kant's Philosophy. [REVIEW]C. A. Van Kirk - 1989 - Kant Studien 80 (3):362.
  34. A. Model, Metaphysik und reflektierende Urteilskraft bei Kant. [REVIEW]W. Steinbeck - 1989 - Kant Studien 80 (3):360.
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  35. Menzer, Paul, Kants Lehre von der Entwickelung in Natur und Geschichte. [REVIEW] E. Von Aster - 1911 - Kant Studien 16:448.
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  36. Kant, Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens, tr. S. L. Jaki.H. L. Wilson - 1987 - Kant Studien 78 (1):119.
  37. Kant, Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens.M. Kleinschnieder - 1974 - Kant Studien 65 (3):321.
  38. I. Hermann, Kant teleologiája. [REVIEW] E. Lengyel - 1975 - Kant Studien 66 (2):266.
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  39. J. D. McFarland, Kant's Concept of Teleology. [REVIEW]L. Funderburk - 1971 - Kant Studien 62 (1):137.
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  40. Kants Kritik der Urteilskraft in ihrer Beziehung zu den beiden anderen Kritiken und zu den nachkantischen Systemen.A. Dorner - 1900 - Kant Studien 4:248.
  41. K. Kuypers, Kants Kunsttherorie und die Einheit der Kritik der Urteilskraft. [REVIEW]W. Steinbeck - 1973 - Kant Studien 64 (4):515.
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  42. Th. Auxter, Kant's Moral Teleology. [REVIEW]A. Broadie - 1984 - Kant Studien 75 (4):500.
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  43. Kant’s Principle of The Formal Finality of Nature and Its Role in Experience.Iris Fry - 1989 - International Philosophical Quarterly 29 (1):67-76.
  44. The Cambridge Companion to Kant. Edited by Paul Guyer. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. Pp. xii, 482. 1992. ISBN 0-521-36587-2 , 0-521-36768-9. £15.99 . - A Kant Dictionary. By H. Caygill. Oxford, Blackwell Publishers, £15.99 1995. ISBN 063-117-535-0. £15.99. [REVIEW]Kimberley Hutchings - 1998 - Kantian Review 2:157-160.
  45. The Wolffian Roots of Kant's Teleology.H. Van den Berg - unknown
  46. Is Hypothetical Reason a Precursor to Reflective Judgment?Suma Rajiva - 2006 - Kant Studien 97 (1):114-126.
    Introduction Kant develops a positive though regulative role for reason toward the end of the Dialectic of the Critique of Pure Reason, particularly in the Appendix to the Dialectic. In the opening section, “The Regulative Employment of the Ideas of Pure Reason”, he provides us with an account of how these ideas can unify the understanding in its employment, although only regulatively. Part of this account includes a discussion of the hypothetical use of reason, in which one inspects a group (...)
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  47. The Role of Synthesis in the Critique of Judgment.Rudolf A. Makkreel - 1989 - Proceedings of the Sixth International Kant Congress 2 (2):345-355.
  48. Art, Nature and Purposiveness in Kant's Aesthetic Theory.Theodore Gracyk - 1995 - Proceedings of the Eighth International Kant Congress 2:499-507.
  49. The Antinomy of Teleological Judgment and the Concept of an Intuitive Intellect.Kevin Thompson - 1995 - Proceedings of the Eighth International Kant Congress 2:445-452.
  50. Kant.Patricia Kitcher, Philip Kitcher & Ralph C. S. Walker - 1980 - Philosophical Review 89 (2):282.
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