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Teleology in Philosophia Christi


The Evangelical Philosophical Society blog alerts its readers to the forthcoming Summer 2010 issue of the EPS journal Philosophia Christi. My paper “Teleology: A Shopper’s Guide” is among those which will appear in it. (Scroll through the last several posts at the EPS blog to see some of the rest of the contents.) Here is the abstract: Teleology features prominently in recent discussions in the philosophy of mind, action theory, philosophy of biology, and in the dispute between Intelligent Design theorists and Darwinian naturalists. Unfortunately, discussants often talk past each other and oversimplify the issues, failing to recognize the differences between the several theories of teleology philosophers have historically put forward, and the different natural phenomena that might be claimed to be teleological. This paper identifies five possible theories of teleology, and five distinct levels of nature at which teleology might be said to exist. Special attention is paid to the differences between Aristotelian-Thomistic and ID theoretic approaches to teleology.

Comments (4)

Teleology does not exist anywhere in nature except in the human imagination.

And can you post single piece of evidence that can better be explained by Intelligent [!] Design than by biological science--and I mean reasonably explained, not explained away in the sense that saying 'God did it!' renders all investigation or explanation impossible. And please don't say the ling-debunked bacterial flagellum.

Edward Feser doesn't believe in ID.

Feser covered his views well here:

I also argued in TLS (his book The Last Superstition) that the application by biologists, physicists, and other scientists of concepts like “algorithm,” “information,” “software,” “program,” etc. to the natural world evinces a tacit recognition of the reality of teleology or final causation. The reason (set out, again, in detail in TLS) is that the sort of directedness-towards-an-end that these concepts entail just is the core of the Aristotelian-Scholastic conception of final causality.

The point is rather that Darwinism claims to identify an “algorithm” by means of which natural processes generate new species. And if this “algorithm” talk is taken seriously, then it necessarily entails, given the nature of algorithms, that there is an end-state towards which the processes in question point – not, to be sure, the generation of some particular species (human or otherwise) at some temporal culmination point, but rather the (in principle non-stop) generation of species after species meeting certain abstract criteria of fitness.

As I argue in TLS, all the computer science talk physicists, biologists, and other contemporary scientists have taken on board with such gusto really isn’t compatible with the “mechanistic” or anti-teleological conception of the material world to which they are still officially committed. Hence one either has to agree with the judgment of thinkers like John Searle that talk of “information,” “algorithms,” etc. is at best a misleading set of metaphors and at worst a complete muddle; or, if one thinks such talk is indispensible (and there is good reason to think it is) one must acknowledge that something like the Aristotelian conception of nature is correct after all.

Here's a friendly tip, Helena: A good way of knowing what an article actually says is to read it. Especially useful if you're going to criticize it. That way you won't embarrass yourself or waste other people's time.

Dear Dr. Feser-

How dare you correct an ill-informed person! What do you think you are, a *philosopher* or something?

Tongue firmly jammed in cheek, an admirer.

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