About this topic
Summary

Kant’s main work on teleology is contained in the Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790), especially in the second of its two main parts, “Critique of the Teleological Power of Judgment”. Most of this material is dedicated to analyzing judgment of complex systems as teleological by nature (rather than design) – and arguing that, although we can never have theoretical knowledge that anything in nature is teleological, such judgment is nonetheless necessary and beneficial for us. Kant also connects his analysis and these conclusions with his positions on religion and morality.

Key works

Responses to Kant’s treatment of teleology are especially prominent in post-Kantian German philosophy. For example, Hegel emphasizes in his Science of Logic (1812-1816) the importance of Kant’s analysis of natural teleology, but argues that we can have knowledge of real natural teleology. For comprehensive references, see the excellent online Ginsborg 2008. Some representative and important recent works are as follows: On teleology and biology, two especially important recent interpretations are Ginsborg’s (especially Ginsborg 2004) and McLaughlin’s (McLaughlin 1990). On our supposed need for teleological judgment of nature, see Guyer 1990 and Ginsborg 1990. On the place of this material within the project of the third Critique, see Zuckert 2007. On the connection to morality and religion, see Guyer 2000

Introductions 1. Ginsborg 2006 2. Ginsborg 2008
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Kant: Teleology in Science
  1. Kant on the Peculiarity of the Human Understanding and the Antinomy of the Teleological Power of Judgment.Idan Shimony - 2018 - In Violetta L. Waibel, Margit Ruffing & David Wagner (eds.), Natur und Freiheit: Akten des XII. Internationalen Kant-Kongresses. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter. pp. 1677–1684.
    Kant argues in the Critique of the Teleological Power of Judgment that the first stage in resolving the problem of teleology is conceiving it correctly. He explains that the conflict between mechanism and teleology, properly conceived, is an antinomy of the power of judgment in its reflective use regarding regulative maxims, and not an antinomy of the power of judgment in its determining use regarding constitutive principles. The matter in hand does not concern objective propositions regarding the possibility of objects (...)
  2. Hegel’s “Idea of Life” and Internal Purposiveness.Daniel Lindquist - 2018 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 8 (2):376-408.
    The first part of the final section of Hegel's Science of Logic, the section on "The Idea", is titled "Life". Logic being the science of thought for Hegel, this section presents Hegel's account of the form of thought peculiar to thinking about living beings as living. Hegel's full account of this form of thought holds that a living being is (1) a functionally organized totality of members (2) that maintains itself in and through its environment (3) in the manner of (...)
  3. Kant on Epigenesis, Monogenesis and Human Nature: The Biological Premises of Anthropology.Alix Cohen - 2006 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 37 (4):675-93.
    The aim of this paper is to show that for Kant, a combination of epigenesis and monogenesis is the condition of possibility of anthropology as he conceives of it and that moreover, this has crucial implications for the biological dimension of his account of human nature. More precisely, I begin by arguing that Kant’s conception of mankind as a natural species is based on two premises: firstly the biological unity of the human species (monogenesis of the human races); and secondly (...)
  4. Die Teleologie der Natur (§§ 64–68).Ina Goy - 2008 - In Otfried Höffe (ed.), Immanuel Kant. Kritik der Urteilskraft. Berlin: Akademie Verlag / De Gruyter. pp. 223–239.
    A commentary on §§ 64-68 of Kant's "Critique of the Power of Judgment". Nach einer allgemeinen Definition von zweckmäßigen Gegenständen und deren Binnendifferenzierung in künstliche und natürliche Zwecke, setzt Kant in § 64 mit einer vorläufigen Definition des eigentlichen Untersuchungsgegenstandes ein. Dinge sind genau dann Naturzwecke, wenn sie von sich selbst Ursache und Wirkung sind. Kant veranschaulicht diese Definition am Beispiel eines organischen Gegenstandes: an einem Baum. In § 65 soll die vorläufige Definition von Naturzwecken präzisiert und von einem bestimmten (...)
  5. The Antinomy of Teleological Judgment.Ina Goy - 2015 - Studi Kantiani 28:65-88.
    The antinomy of teleological judgment is one of the most controversial passages of Kant’s "Critique of the Power of Judgment". Having developed the idea of an explanation of organized beings by mechanical and teleological natural laws in §§ 61-68, in §§ 69-78 Kant raises the question of whether higher order mechanical and teleological natural laws, which unify the particular empirical laws of organized beings, might pose an antinomy of conflicting principles within the power of judgment. I will argue against alternative (...)
  6. What Was Kant’s Contribution to the Understanding of Biology?Idan Shimony - 2017 - Kant Yearbook 9 (1):159-178.
    Kant’s theory of biology in the Critique of the Power of Judgment may be rejected as obsolete and attacked from two opposite perspectives. In light of recent advances in biology one can claim contra Kant, on the one hand, that biological phenomena, which Kant held could only be explicated with the help of teleological principles, can in fact be explained in an entirely mechanical manner, or on the other, that despite the irreducibility of biology to physico-mechanical explanations, it is nonetheless (...)
  7. Hegels Analysen des Organischen.Ina Goy - 2016 - Hegel-Jahrbuch 2016 (1):476-481.
  8. Analogical Reflection as a Source for the Science of Life: Kant and the Possibility of the Biological Sciences.Nassar Dalia - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 58:57-66.
    In contrast to the previously widespread view that Kant's work was largely in dialogue with the physical sciences, recent scholarship has highlighted Kant's interest in and contributions to the life sciences. Scholars are now investigating the extent to which Kant appealed to and incorporated insights from the life sciences and considering the ways he may have contributed to a new conception of living beings. The scholarship remains, however, divided in its interest: historians of science are concerned with the content of (...)
  9. Kant’s Natural Teleology? The Case of Physical Geography.Robert R. Clewis - 2016 - Kant-Studien 107 (2):314-342.
    Name der Zeitschrift: Kant-Studien Jahrgang: 107 Heft: 2 Seiten: 314-342.
  10. Schelling in the Anthropocene: A New Mythology of Nature.Bruce Matthews - 2015 - Symposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy/Revue canadienne de philosophie continentale 19 (1):94-105.
    I explore how the "synthesis of history and nature" that defines the Anthropocene might signal the advent of the “new mythology” Schelling hoped would emerge from his Naturphilosophie. The epistemological dimension of this new mythology is to be understood through Schelling’s idea of Mitwissenschaft, in which humanity is the essential active agent in the reflexive system of the world. Such an inquiry derives not from a sentimental longing for an enchanted world, but from the impending “annihilation of nature” Schelling foresaw (...)
  11. Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Kant on Judgment.Robert Wicks - 2007 - Routledge.
    Kant’s _Critique of Judgment_ is one of the most important texts in the history of modern aesthetics. This _GuideBook _discusses the _Third Critique_ section by section, and introduces and assesses: Kant's life and the background of the _Critique of Judgment_ the ideas and text of the _Critique of Judgment_, including a critical explanation of Kant’s theories of natural beauty the continuing relevance of Kant’s work to contemporary philosophy and aesthetics. This _GuideBook_ is an accessible introduction to a notoriously difficult work (...)
  12. Kant on Beauty and Biology: An Interpretation of the 'Critique of Judgment'.Rachel Zuckert - 2007 - Cambridge University Press.
    Kant's Critique of Judgment has often been interpreted by scholars as comprising separate treatments of three uneasily connected topics: beauty, biology, and empirical knowledge. Rachel Zuckert's book interprets the Critique as a unified argument concerning all three domains. She argues that on Kant's view, human beings demonstrate a distinctive cognitive ability in appreciating beauty and understanding organic life: an ability to anticipate a whole that we do not completely understand according to preconceived categories. This ability is necessary, moreover, for human (...)
  13. Kant on Epigenesis, Monogenesis and Human Nature: The Biological Premises of Anthropology.Alix A. Cohen - 2006 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 37 (4):675-693.
    The aim of this paper is to show that for Kant, a combination of epigenesis and monogenesis is the condition of possibility of anthropology as he conceives of it and that moreover, this has crucial implications for the biological dimension of his account of human nature. More precisely, I begin by arguing that Kant’s conception of mankind as a natural species is based on two premises: firstly the biological unity of the human species (monogenesis of the human races); and secondly (...)
  14. Teleology Then and Now: The Question of Kant’s Relevance for Contemporary Controversies Over Function in Biology.John Zammito - 2006 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 37 (4):748-770.
  15. Kant's Criticisms of Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.Reed Winegar - 2015 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 23 (5):888-910.
    According to recent commentators like Paul Guyer, Kant agrees with Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion that physico-theology can never provide knowledge of God and that the concept of God, nevertheless, provides a useful heuristic principle for scientific enquiry. This paper argues that Kant, far from agreeing with Hume, criticizes Hume's Dialogues for failing to prove that physico-theology can never yield knowledge of God and that Kant correctly views Hume's Dialogues as a threat to, rather than an anticipation of, his own (...)
  16. Sensibility and Organic Unity: Kant, Goethe, and the Plasticity of Cognition.Dalia Nassar - 2015 - Intellectual History Review 25 (3):311-326.
    In this paper, I trace a ‘leading thread’ from Kant’s Critique of Judgment to Goethe that involves a shift from a conceptual framework, in which a priori concepts furnish necessity and thereby science, to a framework in which sensible experience plays a far more significant and determining role in the formation of knowledge. Although this shift was not enacted by Kant himself, his elaboration of organic unity or organisms paved the way for this transformation. By considering both the methodological difficulties (...)
  17. CHAPTER 5: Systematicity, Taste, and Purpose.Paul Guyer - 2009 - In Knowledge, Reason, and Taste: Kant's Response to Hume. Princeton University Press. pp. 198-254.
  18. Biological Purposiveness and Analogical Reflection.Angela Breitenbach - 2014 - In Eric Watkins & Ina Goy (eds.), Kant's Theory of Biology. De Gruyter. pp. 131-148.
  19. Oughts Without Intentions: A Kantian Approach to Biological Functions.Hannah Ginsborg - 2014 - In Eric Watkins & Ina Goy (eds.), Kant's Theory of Biology. De Gruyter. pp. 259-274.
  20. Kant’s Theory of Biology and the Argument From Design.Ina Goy - 2014 - In Eric Watkins & Ina Goy (eds.), Kant's Theory of Biology. De Gruyter. pp. 203-220.
    In this paper, I treat the question of whether and in what regard Kant's theory of biology contains a version of the argument from design, which is the question of whether Kant considers the purposive order of organized nature as a physicotheological proof for the existence of God, and in turn, the existence of God as the supersensible ground for the teleological order of organized nature. As an introduction to the topic, I name traditional examples of the argument from design (...)
  21. The Antinomy of Teleological Judgment: What It Is and How It Is Solved.Marcel Quarfood - 2014 - In Eric Watkins & Ina Goy (eds.), Kant's Theory of Biology. De Gruyter. pp. 167-184.
  22. Nature in General as a System of Ends.Eric Watkins - 2014 - In Eric Watkins & Ina Goy (eds.), Kant's Theory of Biology. De Gruyter. pp. 117-130.
  23. Organisms and Metaphysics: Kant’s First Herder Review.Rachel Zuckert - 2014 - In Eric Watkins & Ina Goy (eds.), Kant's Theory of Biology. De Gruyter. pp. 61-78.
    John Zammito, among others, argues that in his review of J.G. Herder’s Ideas, Kant criticizes Herder as a dogmatic metaphysician hypocritically: these criticisms themselves rest on dogmatic metaphysical grounds, viz. an insistence of the distinction of human beings (as souls or rational free agents) from the rest of nature, a commitment to “dead” matter and the like. Against this interpretation, I argue that Kant’s criticism of Herder is grounded not in metaphysical commitments, but in epistemological concerns articulated in the Critique (...)
  24. Merely Mechanistic Laws – Causal Mechanism and Kant’s Antinomy of the Teleological Power of Judgment.Thomas Teufel - 2013 - In Margit Ruffing, Claudio La Rocca, Alfredo Ferrarin & Stefano Bacin (eds.), Kant Und Die Philosophie in Weltbürgerlicher Absicht: Akten des Xi. Kant-Kongresses 2010. De Gruyter. pp. 261-270.
  25. Kant on Biology and the Experience of Life.Angela Breitenbach - 2013 - In Margit Ruffing, Claudio La Rocca, Alfredo Ferrarin & Stefano Bacin (eds.), Kant Und Die Philosophie in Weltbürgerlicher Absicht: Akten des Xi. Kant-Kongresses 2010. De Gruyter. pp. 19-30.
  26. Teleology and Its Risks for Reason: A Closer Look at the Antinomy of Teleological Judgment.Dilek Huseyinzadegan - 2013 - In Margit Ruffing, Claudio La Rocca, Alfredo Ferrarin & Stefano Bacin (eds.), Kant Und Die Philosophie in Weltbürgerlicher Absicht: Akten des Xi. Kant-Kongresses 2010. De Gruyter. pp. 899-910.
  27. Kant’s Teleology, the Concept of the Organism, and the Context of Contemporary Biology.Georg Toepfer - 2011 - Logical Analysis and History of Philosophy 14.
  28. Regulative Principles and ‘the Wise Author of Nature’: Lawrence Pasternack.Lawrence Pasternack - 2011 - Religious Studies 47 (4):411-429.
    There is much more said in the Critique of Pure Reason about the relationship between God and purposiveness than what is found in Kant's analysis of the physico-theological argument. The ‘Wise Author of Nature’ is central to his analysis of regulative principles in the ‘Appendix to the Transcendental Dialectic’ and also appears in the ‘Canon’, first with regards to the Highest Good and then again in relation to our theoretical use of purposiveness. This paper will begin with a brief discussion (...)
  29. Kant's Foundations of Natural Science and the Methodology of the Copernican Revolution in Philosophy.Howard William Duncan - 1981 - Dissertation, The University of Western Ontario (Canada)
    The central concern of this work is a presentation of Kant's theory of the foundations of natural science whereby his foundational structures are rendered as a unified system. A systematic account of Kant's views in this regard is possible only if one adopts an interpretive principle that can be employed in the examination of each of the foundations; it is my position that the unifying feature of Kant's mature philosophy is the reliance upon the methodology of the Copernican Revolution in (...)
  30. Kant on Vital Forces: Metaphysical Concerns Versus Scientific Practice.Hein van den Berg - 2009 - In E. O. Onnasch (ed.), Kants Philosophie der Natur. Ihre Entwicklung im Opus postumum und ihre WIrkung. De Gruyter. pp. 115-135.
  31. "Kant's Principle of the Formal Finality of Nature and its Role in Experience, Iris Fry in His Critique of Judgment, and Especially in its Two Introductions, Kant Examined the Necessary Conditions for Concrete Knowledge and Ex-Perience. The Object of Investigation Here Was Not the First Critique's" Na.Peter K. Mcinerney Consciousness - 1988 - Journal of Philosophy 85 (11).
  32. Pure Versus Empirical Forms of Thought: Schelling's Critique of Kant's Categories and the Beginnings of Naturphilosophie.Dalia Nassar - 2014 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 52 (1):113-134.
    The Origins of Schelling’s Naturphilosophie and its relation to his transcendental philosophy have for a long time intrigued historians of philosophy.1 When did Schelling’s interest in the philosophy of nature commence,2 and what inspired this apparent transition in his thought?3 How did his Naturphilosophie figure into his later departure from Fichte, and in what ways did his early commitments influence this departure?4 These have been the overarching questions of the debate, and they have been answered from varying angles. However, by (...)
  33. Kant on Understanding Organisms as Natural Purposes.Hannah Ginsborg - 2001 - In Eric Watkins (ed.), Kant and the Sciences. Oxford University Press. pp. 231--58.
  34. Hegel's Appropriation of Kant's Account of Teleology in Nature.Daniel Dahlstrom - 1998 - In Stephen Houlgate (ed.), Hegel and the Philosophy of Nature. Suny Press. pp. 167--88.
  35. Finality and the Idea of Life-the Hegelian Reception of the Teleology of Kant.F. Chiereghin - 1990 - Verifiche: Rivista Trimestrale di Scienze Umane 19 (1-2):127-229.
  36. Kant's Antinomy of Reflective Judgment: A Re-Evaluation.Alix Cohen - 2004 - Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 23 (1):183.
    The aim of this paper is to show that there is a genuine difficulty in Kant’s argument regarding the connection between mechanism and teleology. But this difficulty is not the one that is usually underlined. Far from consisting in a contradiction between the first and the third Critique, I argue that the genuine difficulty is intrinsic to the antinomy of reflective judgement: rather than having any hope of resolving anything, it consists in an inescapable conflict. In order to support this (...)
  37. The Wolffian Roots of Kant’s Teleology.Hein van den Berg - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (4):724-734.
    Kant’s teleology as presented in the Critique of Judgment is commonly interpreted in relation to the late eighteenth-century biological research of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach. In the present paper, I show that this interpretative perspective is incomplete. Understanding Kant’s views on teleology and biology requires a consideration of the teleological and biological views of Christian Wolff and his rationalist successors. By reconstructing the Wolffian roots of Kant’s teleology, I identify several little known sources of Kant’s views on biology. I argue that (...)
  38. Review: Reath, Herman and, & Korsgaard (Ed), Reclaiming the History of Ethics: Essays for John Rawls. [REVIEW]Patrick Paul Kain - 1999 - Kantian Review 3:114-122.
  39. Teleology in Biology: A Kantian Perspective.Angela Breitenbach - 2009 - Kant Yearbook 1 (1).
  40. Kant's Teleology as the Basis for Orientation in Ecology.Igor Eterović - 2011 - Filozofska Istrazivanja 31 (2):299-309.
  41. Umweltethik nach Kant. Ein analogisches Verständnis vom Wert der Natur.Angela Breitenbach - 2009 - Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 57 (3):377-395.
    Kant is often characterised as the chief exponent of an anthropocentric ethics that can ascribe to nature only a purely instrumental value. By contrast, this paper argues that Kant′s teleological conception of nature provides the basis for a promising account of environmental ethics. According to this account we can attribute to nature a value that is independent of its usefulness to human beings without making this value independent from the judgment of the rational valuer.
  42. Kant's Critique of Judgment and the Scientific Investigation of Matter.Daniel Rothbart & Irmgard Scherer - 1997 - Hyle 3 (1):65 - 80.
    Kant's theory of judgment establishes the conceptual framework for understanding the subtle relationships between the experimental scientist, the modern instrument, and nature's atomic particles. The principle of purposiveness which governs judgment has also a role in implicitly guiding modern experimental science. In Part 1 we explore Kant's philosophy of science as he shows how knowledge of material nature and unobservable entities is possible. In Part 2 we examine the way in which Kant's treatment of judgment, with its operating principle of (...)
  43. A Spinozistic Deduction of the Kantian Concept of a Natural End.Richard N. Manning - 2011 - Philo 14 (2):176-200.
    Kant distinguishes “natural ends” as exhibiting a part-whole reciprocal causal structure in virtue of which we can only conceive them as having been caused through a conception, as if by intelligent design. Here, I put pressure on Kant’s position by arguing that his view of what individuates and makes cognizable material bodies of any kind is inadequate and needs supplementation. Drawing on Spinoza, I further urge that the needed supplement is precisely the whole-part reciprocal causal structure that Kant takes to (...)
  44. Sobre o Uso de Princípios Teleológicos Na Filosofia, de Kant.Marcio Pires - 2013 - Trans/Form/Ação 36 (1):211-238.
    O conceito de memes surgiu em 1976 com Richard Dawkins, como um análogo cultural dos genes. Deveria ser possível estudar a cultura através do processo de evolução por seleção natural de memes, ou seja, de comportamentos, ideias e conceitos. O filósofo Daniel Dennett utilizou tal conceito como central em sua teoria da consciência e pela primeira vez divulgou para o grande público a possibilidade de uma ciência dos memes chamada "memética". A pesquisadora Susan Blackmore (1999) foi quem mais se aproximou (...)
  45. Kant und der evolutionismus. Zur thematik der Kantforschung Paul menzers.Gerhard Lehmann - 1961 - Kant-Studien 53 (1-4):389-410.
  46. Der vierfache Sinn der inneren Zweckmäßigkeit in Kants Philosophie des Organischen.Paul Bommersheim - 1927 - Kant-Studien 32 (1-3):290-309.
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