Agential thinking

Synthese 199 (5-6):13393-13419 (2021)
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In his 2009 monograph, Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection, Peter Godfrey-Smith accuses biologists of demonstrating ‘Darwinian Paranoia’ when they engage in what he dubs ‘agential thinking’. But as Daniel Dennett points out, he offers neither an illuminating set of examples nor an extended argument for this assertion, deeming it to be a brilliant propaganda stroke against what is actually a useful way of thinking. Compared to the dangers of teleological thinking in biology, the dangers of agential thinking have unfortunately rarely been discussed. Drawing on recent work by Samir Okasha, I attempt to remedy this omission, through analyzing the nature of agential thinking, and providing a philosophical treatment of the unexamined dangers in this peculiar, yet tempting way of thinking.

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Walter Veit
University of Bristol

Citations of this work

Scaffolding Natural Selection.Walter Veit - 2022 - Biological Theory 17 (2):163-180.
Complexity and the Evolution of Consciousness.Walter Veit - forthcoming - Biological Theory:1-16.

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