Teleology Rises from the Grave

Philosophy Now 126:20-23 (2018)
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My short history of alternative teleology traditions should help us recognize that biological goal-directedness is not dependent on mind, that is, on divine design or occult prescient forces. Following Kant’s ‘instrumental’ teleology, I have shown that one can be anti-reductionist about biology without nesting holism in mind. The order of both knowledge and the process is incorrectly reversed in such mind-dependent philosophy. So against the philosophers who think mind precedes biology, I submit that biological teleology actually precedes the sophisticated purposiveness of human consciousness. That is to say, the conscious mind emerges out of more primitive forms of biological conatus or seeking, not the other way around. And the biological goal-driven aspect of life is not a form of vitalism, but an accidental marriage of rudimentary nervous system, sensory-motor system, homeostasic systems in the organism, and ecologies of limited resource. Nor are these factors working to render the universe susceptible to the birth of consciousness, whatever that means. Therefore there are perfectly legitimate forms of biological teleology that do not have conscious mind lurking behind them.



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Stephen Asma
Columbia College Chicago

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