The Good of Aristotle's Teleology

Dissertation, The University of Utah (2000)

Teleological explanations have long been identified by two unique characteristics: a normative notion of goodness and "backwards" causation. Many contend that teleological explanations should be understood in such a way that they do not involve a normative notion of goodness. Additionally, many feel that the causal aspect of a teleological explanation is not "backwards." Generally, those who accept both claims also accept, on the basis of these two points, that teleological explanations are reducible to standard mechanistic explanations. I argue that there is a notion of goodness in teleological contexts but it is not normative, it is descriptive. Further, I argue that the causation that is involved with teleological claims is not backwards. ;I base my account on Aristotle's notion of "final cause." Thus, I both provide an interpretation of Aristotle's account of "final cause" and use this interpretation to construct my own account of teleological explanations. I begin by making a distinction, which has not been made in the literature, between "being good for," "being good at," and "being a good something." We find that the descriptive notions "being good at" and "being a good something" are central to teleological explanations, while the normative notion "being good for" is not. Next, I show that teleological explanations do not utilize a notion of "backwards" causation, but a normal notion of causation . ;However, Aristotle clearly thought that teleological explanations were not reducible to mechanistic explanations, even though he argues that teleological explanations involve a descriptive notion of goodness and no "backwards" causation. I argue that Aristotle's anti reductionism is the result of his underlying metaphysical system. However, I go on to argue that even if we do not accept Aristotle's metaphysical system, teleological explanations are not reducible to mechanistic explanations
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