When it comes to epistemic normativity, should we take the good to be prior to the right? That is, should we ground facts about what we ought and ought not believe on a given occasion in facts about the value of being in certain cognitive states (such as, for example, the value of having true beliefs)? The overwhelming answer among contemporary epistemologists is “Yes, we should.” This essay argues to the contrary. Just as taking the good to be prior to (...) the right in ethics often leads one to sanction implausible trade-offs when determining what an agent should do, so too, this essay argues, taking the good to be prior to the right in epistemology leads one to sanction implausible trade-offs when determining what a subject should believe. Epistemic value—and, by extension, epistemic goals—are not the explanatory foundation upon which all other normative notions in epistemology rest. (shrink)
Placeholder essentialism is the view that there is a causal essence that holds category members together, though we may not know what the essence is. Sometimes the placeholder can be filled in by scientific essences, such as when we acquire scientific knowledge that the atomic weight of gold is 79. We challenge the view that placeholders are elaborated by scientific essences. On our view, if placeholders are elaborated, they are elaborated Aristotelian essences, a telos. Utilizing the same kinds of experiments (...) used by traditional essentialists—involving superficial change (study 1), transformation of insides (study 2), acquired traits (study 3) and inferences about offspring (study 4)—we find support for the view that essences are elaborated by a telos. And we find evidence (study 5) that teleological essences may generate category judgments. (shrink)
In his article “The Ontology of Musical Versions: Introducing the Hypothesis of Nested Types,” Nemesio Puy raises a hypothesis that continuity of the purpose is both a necessary and a sufficient condition for musical work’s identity. Puy’s hypothesis is relevant to two topics in cognitive psychology and experimental philosophy. The first topic is the prevalence of teleological reasoning about various objects and its influence on persistence and categorization judgments. The second one is the importance of an artist’s intention in the (...) categorization of artworks. We tested the teleological hypothesis across three studies. Vignettes in these three studies describe a musical work being changed in some of these aspects: purpose either changed or retained; score either changed or retained; change is made either by the same or a different composer. The results suggest that teleological considerations impact judgments on the persistence of musical works, but this impact appears to be relatively weak. The results also suggest that persistence judgments strongly depend on whether acoustical properties were changed, while whether the change was made by the original composer seems to be relatively unimportant. (shrink)
Do young children have a teleological conception of the essence of natural kinds? We tested this by examining how the preservation or alteration of an animal’s purpose affected children’s persistence judgments (N = 40, ages 4 - 12, Mean Age = 7.04, 61% female). We found that even when surface-level features of an animal (e.g., a bee) were preserved, if the entity’s purpose changed (e.g., the bee now spins webs), children were more likely to categorize the entity as a member (...) of a different natural kind (e.g., a spider) and these effects were similar in magnitude to altering the surface-features of a natural kind. Our results suggest that we might view teleological properties as partially constitutive of the essence of natural kinds. (shrink)
Using the language of common-sense psychology, we explain human behavior by citing its reason or purpose, and this is central to our understanding of human beings as agents. On the other hand, since human beings are physical objects, human behavior should also be explicable in the language of physical science, in which causal accounts cast human beings as collections of physical particles. CSP talk of mind and agency, however, does not seem to mesh well with the language of physical science.In (...) Teleological Realism, Scott Sehon argues that CSP explanations are not causal but teleological -- that they cite the purpose or goal of the behavior in question rather than an antecedent state that caused the behavior. CSP explanations of behavior, Sehon claims, are answering a question different from that answered by physical science explanations, and, accordingly, CSP explanations and physical science explanations are independent of one another. Common-sense facts about mind and agency can thus be independent of the physical facts about human beings, and, contrary to the views of most philosophers of mind in recent decades, common-sense psychology will not be subsumed by physical science.Sehon defends his non-reductionist account of mind and agency in clear and nontechnical language. He carefully distinguishes his view from forms of "strong naturalism" that would seem to preclude it. And he evaluates key objections to teleological realism, including those posed by Donald Davidson's influential article "Actions, Reasons and Causes" and some put forth by more recent proponents of causal theories of action. CSP, Sehon argues, has a different realm than does physical science; the normative notions that are central to CSP are not reducible to physical facts and laws. (shrink)
I argue for a teleological account of events in progress. Details aside, the proposal is that events in progress are teleological processes. It follows from this proposal that final causes are ubiquitous: anything happening at any time is an event with a telos.
This work is an examination of teleological attributions i.e. ascriptions of proper functions and natural ends) to the features and behavior of living things with a view to understanding their application to human life.
Ernest Nagel, one of the world's leading philosophers of science, is an unreconstructed empirical rationalist who continues to believe that the logical methods of the modern natural sciences are the most successful instruments men have devised to acquire reliable knowledge. This book presents "Teleology Revisited"-the John Dewey lectures delivered at Columbia University- and eleven of Nagel's articles on the philosophy of science.
Aristotelian natures – internal principles of motion and rest – provide a rich account of the goal-directed behaviour of natural entities. What such natures cannot account for, on their own, are cases of teleology across natures, where an entity, due to its nature, furthers the goals of another entity. Nevertheless, Aristotle admits such teleological configurations among natures: most notably Politics I.8 1256b15-20 claims that plants are for the sake of animals and animals are for the sake of humans. The (...) paper first scrutinizes two recent attempts– by Mohan Matthen and David Sedley – at an explanation of such teleology across natures. The fundamental move these proposals make is that they claim that the universe has a nature of its own. Accordingly, teleology across natures could be explained as the operation of this single cosmic nature. But the introduction of a cosmic nature contravenes fundamental strictures of Aristotelian natural philosophy. Hence the third section of the paper formulates an alternative proposal, that the teleological interaction across different natures is underpinned by the self-benefittingactivityofindividualnaturalentities,whichareable to use the natural processes of their environment to their own advantage. (shrink)
Monte Johnson examines one of the most controversial aspects of Aristiotle's natural philosophy: his teleology. Is teleology about causation or explanation? Does it exclude or obviate mechanism, determinism, or materialism? Is it focused on the good of individual organisms, or is god or man the ultimate end of all processes and entities? Is teleology restricted to living things, or does it apply to the cosmos as a whole? Does it identify objectively existent causes in the world, or (...) is it merely a heuristic for our understanding of other causal processes? Johnson argues that Aristotle's aporetic approach drives a middle course between these traditional oppositions, and avoids the dilemma, frequently urged against teleology, between backwards causation and anthropomorphism. Although these issues have been debated with extraordinary depth by Aristotle scholars, and touched upon by many in the wider philosophical and scientific community as well, there has been no comprehensive historical treatment of the issue. Aristotle is commonly considered the inventor of teleology, although the precise term originated in the eighteenth century. But if teleology means the use of ends and goals in natural science, then Aristotle was rather a critical innovator of teleological explanation. Teleological notions were widespread among his predecessors, but Aristotle rejected their conception of extrinsic causes such as mind or god as the primary causes for natural things. Aristotle's radical alternative was to assert nature itself as an internal principle of change and an end, and his teleological explanations focus on the intrinsic ends of natural substances - those ends that benefit the natural thing itself. Aristotle's use of ends was subsequently conflated with incompatible 'teleological' notions, including proofs for the existence of a providential or designer god, vitalism and animism, opposition to mechanism and non-teleological causation, and anthropocentrism. Johnson addresses these misconceptions through an elaboration of Aristotle's methodological statements, as well as an examination of the explanations actually offered in the scientific works. Reviewed in: Notre Dame Philosophical Review 2006.06.15; Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.08.37; Il-Sole – 24 Ore 6 Aug. 2006; Philosophy in Review 26 (2006): 360-2; Rhizai 3 (2006): 171-8; Journal of the History of Philosophy 45 (2007): 323-4; Ancient Philosophy 27 (2007): 191-200; Phronesis 52 (2007): 248-9; Isis 98 (2007): 375; Aestimatio 4 (2007) 146-152; The British Journal for the History of Science 41 (2008): 129-130. The European Legacy 14 (2009); La Cultura 47 (2009): 174-175; Sean M. Row, Teleology in Political Contexts: an assessment of Monte Ransome Johnson’s “Aristotle on Teleology”. (A thesis presented to the faculty of the college of arts and sciences of Ohio University, 2009.). (shrink)
The notions of purpose, goal, end and function are used in descriptions of a very wide range of human, animal and machine behaviour. Andrew Woodfield provides here a unified account of such teleological descriptions and explanations, their varieties, their logical structure and their proper uses. He concentrates his argument on the concepts of 'goal-directed behaviour' and 'natural function', and combines original philosophical criticism with a meticulous, detailed survey of the main competing theories in this diffuse and difficult field.
The ultimate source of explanation in biology is the principle of natural selection. Natural selection means differential reproduction of genes and gene combinations. It is a mechanistic process which accounts for the existence in living organisms of end-directed structures and processes. It is argued that teleological explanations in biology are not only acceptable but indeed indispensable. There are at least three categories of biological phenomena where teleological explanations are appropriate.
Two separate research programs have revealed two different factors that feature in our judgments of whether some entity persists. One program—inspired by Knobe—has found that normative considerations affect persistence judgments. For instance, people are more inclined to view a thing as persisting when the changes it undergoes lead to improvements. The other program—inspired by Kelemen—has found that teleological considerations affect persistence judgments. For instance, people are more inclined to view a thing as persisting when it preserves its purpose. Our goal (...) in this paper is to determine what causes persistence judgments. Across four studies, we pit normative considerations against teleological considerations. And using causal modeling procedures, we find a consistent, robust pattern with teleological and not normative considerations directly causing persistence judgments. Our findings put teleology in the driver’s seat, while at the same time shedding further light on our folk notion of an object. (shrink)
Natural/social kind essentialism is the view that natural kind categories, both living and non-living natural kinds, as well as social kinds (e.g., race, gender), are essentialized. On this view, artifactual kinds are not essentialized. Our view—teleological essentialism—is that a broad range of categories are essentialized in terms of teleology, including artifacts. Utilizing the same kinds of experiments typically used to provide evidence of essentialist thinking—involving superficial change (study 1), transformation of insides (study 2) and inferences about offspring (study 3)—we (...) find support for the view that a broad range of categories—living natural kinds, non-living natural kinds and artifactual kinds—are essentialized in terms of teleology. Study 4 tests a unique prediction of teleological essentialism and also provides evidence that people make inferences about purposes which in turn guide categorization judgments. (shrink)
This book offers a comprehensive account of vitalism and the Romantic philosophy of nature. The author explores the rise of biology as a unified science in Germany by reconstructing the history of the notion of “vital force,” starting from the mid-eighteenth through the early nineteenth century. Further, he argues that Romantic Naturphilosophie played a crucial role in the rise of biology in Germany, especially thanks to its treatment of teleology. In fact, both post-Kantian philosophers and naturalists were guided by (...) teleological principles in defining the object of biological research. The book begins by considering the problem of generation, focusing on the debate over the notion of “formative force.” Readers are invited to engage with the epistemological status of this formative force, i.e. the question of the principle behind organization. The second chapter provides a reconstruction of the physiology of vital forces as it was elaborated in the mid- to late-eighteenth century by the group of physicians and naturalists known as the “Göttingen School.” Readers are shown how these authors developed an understanding of the animal kingdom as a graded series of organisms with increasing functional complexity. Chapter three tracks the development of such framework in Romantic Naturphilosophie. The author introduces the reader to the problem of classification, showing how Romantic philosophers of nature regarded classification as articulated by a unified plan that connects all living forms with one another, relying on the idea of living nature as a universal organism. In the closing chapter, this analysis shows how the three instances of pre-biological discourse on living beings – theory of generation, physiology and natural history – converged to form the consolidated disciplinary matrix of a general biology. The book offers an insightful read for all scholars interested in classical German philosophy, especially those researching the philosophy of nature, as well as the history and philosophy of biology. (shrink)
The teleological approach to an epistemic concept investigates it by asking questions such as ‘what is the purpose of the concept?’, ‘What role has it played in the past?’, or ‘If we imagine a society without the concept, why would they feel the need to invent it?’ The idea behind the teleological approach is that examining the function of the concept illuminates the contours of the concept itself. This approach is a relatively new development in epistemology, and as yet there (...) are few works examining it. This paper aims to fill this gap and engender further understanding of the teleological method. I first contrast the teleological method with more orthodox approaches in epistemology. I then draw a three-way taxonomy of different kinds of teleological approach and provide an example of each kind. The teleological approach is often presented as antithetical to the more orthodox approaches in epistemology, and so in competition with them. I demur. I argue that the methods can be fruitfully combined in epistemological theorising; in the final section I suggest specific ways the teleological approach can be incorporated alongside more orthodox methods in a general methodological reflective equilibrium. (shrink)
Kant's Critique of Teleological Judgment is read as a reflection on philosophical methodological problems that arose through the constitution of an independent science of life - biology. This work presents an example of the interconnections between philosophy and the history of science.
This book explores a variety of teleology present in Plato's Republic, in which actions are carried out for the sake of an end that is not the intended goal. Payne draws on examples from Republic to demonstrate that performing some actions can help produce unintended results, which qualify as ends or purposes of human action.
This paper gives an account of evolutionary explanations in biology. Briefly, the explanations I am primarily concerned with are explanations of adaptations. These explanations are contrasted with other nonteleological evolutionary explanations. The distinction is made by distinguishing the different kinds of questions these different explanations serve to answer. The sense in which explanations of adaptations are teleological is spelled out.
This volume draws together Allan Gotthelf's pioneering work on Aristotle's biology. He examines Aristotle's natural teleology, the axiomatic structure of biological explanation, and the reliance on scientifically organized data in the three great works with which Aristotle laid the foundations of biological science.
Neo-teleology is the two part thesis that, e.g., (i) we have hearts because of what hearts are for: Hearts are for blood circulation, not the production of a pulse, so hearts are there--animals have them--because their function is to circulate the blood, and (ii) that (i) is explained by natural selection: traits spread through populations because of their functions. This paper attacks this popular doctrine. The presence of a biological trait or structure is not explained by appeal to its (...) function. To suppose otherwise is to trivialize natural selection. (shrink)
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 the third Critique. We examine whether a Kantian framework can help resolve the tension between the apparent promiscuity of intuitive teleology and its role in human reasoning about biological organisms and natural kinds. (shrink)
Constitutivists seek to locate the metaphysical foundations of ethics in nonnormative facts about what is constitutive of agency. For most constitutivists, this involves grounding authoritative norms in the teleological structure of agency. Despite a recent surge in interest, the philosophical move at the heart of this sort of constitutivism remains underdeveloped. Some constitutivists—Foot, Thomson, and Korsgaard (at least in her recent *Self-Constitution*)—adopt a broadly Aristotelian approach. They claim that the functional nature of agency grounds normative judgments about agents in much (...) the same way that the functional natures of artifacts and bodily organs ground normative judgments about those kinds of things. I argue that the neo-Aristotelian conclusions about goodness which follow so straightforwardly from teleological premises are not genuinely normative. Functions are not by their very nature normatively significant. Other constitutivists—notably J. David Velleman and Paul Katsafanas—eschew Aristotelian talk of functions in favor of an approach based on the idea that agency has a constitutive aim. Velleman and Katsafanas both claim that aims are normatively significant. I argue that the fact that agency has a constitutive aim is merely a fact about the motives that produce and regulate actions. And so we are still left with a gap between the teleological and the normative. I conclude by suggesting that constitutivists have failed to find a way to bridge this gap not because none exists, but rather because they have been looking in the wrong place. The constitutivist project can be salvaged, but only if it is supplemented with a reductive metanormative account of reasons for action, an account that links reasons to sound or successful practical reasoning. (shrink)
This work is an examination of teleological attributions i.e. ascriptions of proper functions and natural ends) to the features and behavior of living things with a view to understanding their application to human life.
It is now generally understood that constraints play an important role in commonsense moral thinking and generally accepted that they cannot be accommodated by ordinary, traditional consequentialism. Some have seen this as the most conclusive evidence that consequentialism is hopelessly wrong,1 while others have seen it as the most conclusive evidence that moral common sense is hopelessly paradoxical.2 Fortunately, or so it is widely thought, in the last twenty-five years a new research program, that of Agent-Relative Teleology, has come (...) to the rescue on all sides. While consequentialism says that every agent ought always to do that action that will bring about the most good, according to Agent- Relative Teleology. (shrink)
In this article I develop a metaphysical account of final causes grounded on contemporary powers metaphysics. After having presented some key elements of an Aristotle-inspired teleology, i.e., the study of final causes within Aristotelian tradition, I introduce powers. Moreover, I present some theses about their nature and features. Afterwards, I distinguish between two kinds of powers that are expected to play the roles traditionally attributed to final causes: weakly teleological powers and strongly teleological powers. Weakly teleological powers are those (...) powers that ground the possession of all the other powers of a substance. Strongly teleological powers are those powers that ground the activation of all the other powers of a substance. Within this framework, I then develop some options to deal with human teleology, i.e., with the study of human behavior in light of final causes. Finally, in the last Section, I briefly compare my account with other accounts of teleology and of specific sorts of powers that somehow resemble teleological powers. (shrink)
In a series of recent papers, David Rose and Jonathan Schaffer use a number of experiments to show that folk intuitions about composition and persistence are driven by pre-scientific teleological tendencies. They argue that these intuitions are fit for debunking and that the playing field for competing accounts of composition and persistence should therefore be considered even: no view draws more support from folk intuitions than its rivals, and the choice between them should be made exclusively on the basis of (...) theoretical considerations. In this paper I argue that Rose and Schaffer draw the wrong conclusion from their own findings, which should instead push us toward sparse views about composition and persistence. Most metaphysicians (including Schaffer himself, and arguably Rose too) should be worried by this result, since they hold views that are flatly incompatible with it. (shrink)
Thought experiments de facto play many different roles in biology: economical, ethical, technical and so forth. This paper, however, is interested in whether there are any distinctive features of biological TEs as such. The question may be settled in the affirmative because TEs in biology have a function that is intimately connected with the epistemological and methodological status of biology. Peculiar to TEs in biology is the fact that the reflexive, typically human concept of finality may be profitably employed to (...) discover mechanical-experimental causal relations in all living beings—with the obvious caveat that we do not hypostatise and interpret this concept as an ontological quality, since this would land one in an implicitly animistic, pre-Galilean view of nature. From a methodical point of view, the concept of finality is an essential assumption as well as a powerful heuristic tool in the practice of biology, that is, in the investigation of living beings in an intersubjectively testable and reproducible way. (shrink)
In this new study, Lowell Nissen explores the use of teleological language in the study of subjects such as behaviorism, negative feedback, and natural selection. He argues that all existing analyses fail to explain how teleological language can be used legitimately, and he provides his own analysis in terms of intentionality. Philosophers and scientists alike will find this book of greatest interest and value.
This article analyses proportionality as a potential element of a theory of morally justified surveillance, and sets out a teleological account. It draws on conceptions in criminal justice ethics and just war theory, defines teleological proportionality in the context of surveillance, and sketches some of the central values likely to go into the consideration. It then explores some of the ways in which deontologists might want to modify the account and illustrates the difficulties of doing so. Having set out the (...) account, however, it considers whether the proportionality condition is necessary to a theory of morally justified surveillance. The article concludes that we need and should apply only a necessity condition, but notes that proportionality considerations may retain some use in in practice, as a form of coarse‐grained filter applied before assessing necessity when deliberating the permissibility of potential forms of surveillance. (shrink)
Teleological terms such as "function" and "design" appear frequently in the biological sciences. Examples of teleological claims include: A (biological) function of stotting by antelopes is to communicate to predators that they have been detected. Eagles' wings are (naturally) designed for soaring. Teleological notions were commonly associated with the pre-Darwinian view that the biological realm provides evidence of conscious design by a supernatural creator. Even after creationist viewpoints were rejected by most biologists there remained various grounds for concern about the (...) role of teleology in biology, including whether such terms are: 1. vitalistic (positing some special "life-force"); 2. requiring backwards causation (because future outcomes explain present traits); 3. incompatible with mechanistic explanation (because of 1 and 2); 4. mentalistic (attributing the action of mind where there is none); 5. empirically untestable (for all the above reasons). Opinions divide over whether Darwin's theory of evolution provides a means of eliminating teleology from biology, or whether it provides a naturalistic account of the role of teleological notions in the science. Many contemporary biologists and philosophers of biology believe that teleological notions are a distinctive and ineliminable feature of biological explanations but that it is possible to provide a naturalistic account of their role that avoids the concerns above. Terminological issues sometimes serve to obscure some widely-accepted distinctions. (shrink)
This paper is the introduction to Function, Selection, and Design, consisting of the following sections: 1. Introduction 2. The Philosophical Problem 3. Recent Prehistory: The "State of the Art" in the 1960s 4. Wright and Cummins 5. Millikan 6. The Core Consensus and the Peripheral Disagreements 7. Unconclusion.
"The main and original contribution of this volume is to offer a discussion of teleology through the prism of religion, philosophy and history. The goal is to incorporate teleology within discussions across these three disciplines rather than restrict it to one as is customarily the case. The chapters cover a wide range of topics, from individual teleologies to collective ones; ideas put forward by the French aristocrat Arthur de Gobineau and the Scottish philosopher David Hume, by the Anglican (...) theologian and founder of Methodism, John Wesley, and the English naturalist Charles Darwin; it criss-crosses intellectually and conceptually from a discussion of morality to that of the sacralisation of politics"--. (shrink)
-/- Some phenomena within nature exhibit such exquisiteness of structure, function or interconnectedness that many people have found it natural—if not inescapable—to see a deliberative and directive mind behind those phenomena. The mind in question, being prior to nature itself, is typically taken to be supernatural. Philosophically inclined thinkers have both historically and at present labored to shape the relevant intuition into a more formal, logically rigorous inference. The resultant theistic arguments, in their various logical forms, share a focus on (...) plan, purpose, intention and design, and are thus classified as teleological arguments (or, frequently, as arguments from or to design). -/- Although enjoying some prominent defenders over the centuries, such arguments have also attracted serious criticisms from a number of major historical and contemporary thinkers. Both critics and advocates are found not only among philosophers, but come from scientific and other disciplines as well. In the following discussion, major variant forms of teleological arguments will be distinguished and explored, traditional philosophical and other criticisms will be discussed, and the most prominent contemporary turns (cosmic fine tuning arguments, many-worlds theories, and the present Intelligent Design debate) will be tracked. Discussion will conclude with a brief look at one historically important non-inferential approach to the issue. (shrink)
When do the folk think that mereological composition occurs? Many metaphysicians have wanted a view of composition that fits with folk intuitions, and yet there has been little agreement about what the folk intuit. We aim to put the tools of experimental philosophy to constructive use. Our studies suggest that folk mereology is teleological: people tend to intuit that composition occurs when the result serves a purpose. We thus conclude that metaphysicians should dismiss folk intuitions, as tied into a benighted (...) teleological view of nature. (shrink)
Teleological theories of content are thought to suffer from two related difficulties. According to the problem of indeterminacy, biological function is indeterminate in the sense that, in the case of two competing interpretations of the function of an evolved mechanism, there is often no fact of the matter capable of determining which function is the correct one. Therefore, any attempts to construct content out of biological function entail the indeterminacy of content. According to the problem of transparency, statements of biological (...) function are transparent in that a statement of the form 'the function of evolved mechanism M is to represent Fs' can be substituted salva veritate by a statement of the form 'the function of evolved mechanism M is to represent Gs' provided that the statement 'F iff G' is counterfactual supporting. Therefore, any attempt to construct content out of biological function must fail to capture the intensionality of psychological ascriptions. This paper argues that the teleological account is undermined by neither of these problems. Failure to appreciate this point stems from a conflation of two types of proper function - organismic and algorithmic - possessed by an evolved mechanism. These functions underwrite attributions of content to distinct objects. The algorithmic proper function of a mechanism underwrites attributions of content to the mechanism itself, while the organismic proper function of a mechanism underwrites attribution of content to the organism that possesses the mechanism. However the problems of indeterminacy and transparency arise only if the attributions of content attach to the same object. (shrink)
In two recent papers, Rose and Nichols present evidence in favor of the view that humans represent category essences in terms of a telos, such as honey-making, and not in terms of scientific essences, such as bee DNA. In this paper, I challenge their interpretation of the evidence, and show that it is directly predicted by the main theory they seek to undermine. I argue that their results can be explained as instances of diagnostic reasoning about scientific essences.