Darwin's concept of final cause: Neither new nor trivial [Book Review]

Biology and Philosophy 17 (3):323-340 (2002)
Darwin'suse of final cause accords with the Aristotelian idea of finalcauses as explanatory types – as opposed to mechanical causes, which arealways particulars. In Wright's consequence etiology, anadaptation is explained by particular events, namely, its past consequences;hence, that etiology is mechanistic at bottom. This justifies Ghiselin'scharge that such versions of teleology trivialize the subject, But a purelymechanistic explanation of an adaptation allows it to appear coincidental.Patterns of outcome, whether biological or thermodynamic, cannot be explainedbytracing causal chains, even were that possible. They are explicanda of aspecialkind. The form of their explanation, in statistical mechanics or by naturalselection, is not captured by statistical variants of the covering-law model orrelated models of explanation. In them as in classical teleology, types ofoutcome are cited to explain why there are outcomes of those types. But onlywhen types are explanatory by being selected for, as inexplanations of animal and human behavior as well as in Darwin's theory ofnatural selection, but not in statistical mechanics, is the explanationteleological. Darwin's theory is nontrivially teleological.
Keywords Aristotle  Darwin  Explanation  Final cause  Natural selection  Statistical mechanics  Teleology
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DOI 10.1023/A:1020173708395
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Stephen Pratten (2009). Critical Realism and Causality: Tracing the Aristotelian Legacy. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 39 (2):189-218.

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