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  1. Optimality and Teleology in Aristotle's Natural Science.Devin Henry - manuscript
    In this paper I examine the role of optimality reasoning in Aristotle’s natural science. By “optimality reasoning” I mean reasoning that appeals to some conception of “what is best” in order to explain why things are the way they are. We are first introduced to this pattern of reasoning in the famous passage at Phaedo 97b8-98a2, where (Plato’s) Socrates invokes “what is best” as a cause (aitia) of things in nature. This passage can be seen as the intellectual ancestor of (...)
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  2. Biosemiotics, Aboutness, Meaning and Bio-Intentionality. Proposal for an Evolutionary Approach (Biosemiotics Gatherings 2015).Christophe Menant - manuscript
    The management of meaningful information by biological entities is at the core of biosemiotics [Hoffmeyer 2010]. Intentionality, the ‘aboutness’ of mental states, is a key driver in philosophy of mind. Philosophers have been reluctant to use intentionality for non human animals. Some biologists have been in favor of it. J. Hoffmeyer has been using evolutionary intentionality and Peircean semiotics to discuss a biosemiotic approach to the problem of intentionality [Hoffmeyer 1996, 2012]. Also, recent philosophical studies are bringing new openings on (...)
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  3. Teleomechanism Redux? The Conceptual Hybridity of Living Machines in Early Modern Natural Philosophy.Charles T. Wolfe - manuscript
    We have been accustomed at least since Kant and mainstream history of philosophy to distinguish between the ‘mechanical’ and the ‘teleological’; between a fully mechanistic, quantitative science of Nature exemplified by Newton and a teleological, qualitative approach to living beings ultimately expressed in the concept of ‘organism’ – a purposive entity, or at least an entity possessed of functions. The beauty of this distinction is that it seems to make intuitive sense and to map onto historical and conceptual constellations in (...)
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  4. Intuitions About Objects: From Teleology to Elimination.David Mark Kovacs - forthcoming - Mind:fzz071.
    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 (...)
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  5. Biology and Teleology in Aristotle’s Account of the City.Mariska Leunissen - forthcoming - In Julius Rocca (ed.), Teleology in the Ancient World: The Dispensation of Nature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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  6. Social Evolution, Progress and Teleology in Spencer's Synthetic Philosophy and Freudian Psychoanalysis.L. Nascimento - forthcoming - History of the Human Sciences.
    This article aims to compare notions of progress and evolution in the social theories of Freud and Spencer. It argues 1) that the two authors had similarly complex theories that contained mixed elements of positivism and teleology; 2) In its positivist elements, both authors made use of unified natural laws and, in its teleological aspect, they made use of notions of final cause in that progress and the evolution of civilization was understood as a linear path of progressive development with (...)
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  7. Teleological Arguments for God's Existence.Del Ratzsch - forthcoming - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  8. Teleology in the Ancient World: The Dispensation of Nature.Julius Rocca (ed.) - forthcoming - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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  9. Is There Teleological Order in Nature? Is There Teleological Explanation in Science?Paul Weingartner - forthcoming - Epistemologia.
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  10. Andrea Gambarotto, Vital Forces, Teleology and Organization: Philosophy of Nature and the Rise of Biology in Germany. [REVIEW]John H. Zammito - forthcoming - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science.
  11. On the Naturalisation of Teleology: Self-Organisation, Autopoiesis and Teleodynamics.Miguel Garcia-Valdecasas - 2021 - Adaptive Behavior.
    In recent decades, several theories have claimed to explain the teleological causality of organisms as a function of self-organising and self-producing processes. The most widely cited theories of this sort are variations of autopoiesis, originally introduced by Maturana and Varela. More recent modifications of autopoietic theory have focused on system organisation, closure of constraints and autonomy to account for organism teleology. This article argues that the treatment of teleology in autopoiesis and other organisation theories is inconclusive for three reasons: First, (...)
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  12. Against Teleological Essentialism.Eleonore Neufeld - 2021 - Cognitive Science 45 (4):e12961.
    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.
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  13. A Functional Naturalism.Anthony Nguyen - 2021 - Synthese 198 (1):295-313.
    I provide two arguments against value-free naturalism. Both are based on considerations concerning biological teleology. Value-free naturalism is the thesis that both (1) everything is, at least in principle, under the purview of the sciences and (2) all scientific facts are purely non-evaluative. First, I advance a counterexample to any analysis on which natural selection is necessary to biological teleology. This should concern the value-free naturalist, since most value-free analyses of biological teleology appeal to natural selection. My counterexample is unique (...)
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  14. Functional Powers.Michele Paolini Paoletti - 2021 - In Ludger Jansen & Petter Sandstad (eds.), Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Formal Causation. Routledge. pp. 124-148.
    I introduce functional powers, i.e., causal powers that play the role of functions. In the first section, I characterize functions and present some desiderata for a good theory of functions. In the second section, I make some assumptions about the ontology of powers, teleology and structures-that will be helpful in order to ground my account of functional powers. In the third section, sixteen different types of functional powers are examined. All such types of functional powers will exhaustively contribute to performing (...)
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  15. Speusippus, Teleology and the Metaphysics of Value: Theophrastus’ Metaphysics 11a18–26.Wei Cheng - 2020 - Journal of Hellenic Studies 140:143-175.
    This paper reexamines Theophrastus’ Metaphysics 11a18–26, an obscure testimony about Speusippus, the second head of the Platonic Academy. As opposed to the traditional interpretation, which takes this passage as Theophrastus’ polemic against Speusippus’ doctrine of value, I argue that he here dialectically takes advantage of, rather than launches an attack on, the Platonist. Based on this new reading, I further propose a revision and a reassessment of the ‘gloomy metaphysics’ of Speusippus which will shed new light on his ethics.
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  16. The Ontology of Organismic Agency: A Kantian Approach.Hugh Desmond & Philippe Huneman - 2020 - In Andrea Altobrando & Pierfrancesco Biasetti (eds.), Natural Born Monads: On the Metaphysics of Organisms and Human Individuals. De Gruyter. pp. 33-64.
    Biologists explain organisms’ behavior not only as having been programmed by genes and shaped by natural selection, but also as the result of an organism’s agency: the capacity to react to environmental changes in goal-driven ways. The use of such ‘agential explanations’ reopens old questions about how justified it is to ascribe agency to entities like bacteria or plants that obviously lack rationality and even a nervous system. Is organismic agency genuinely ‘real’ or is it just a useful fiction? In (...)
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  17. A Theory of Evolution as a Process of Unfolding.Agustin Ostachuk - 2020 - Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy 16 (1):347-379.
    In this work I propose a theory of evolution as a process of unfolding. This theory is based on four logically concatenated principles. The principle of evolutionary order establishes that the more complex cannot be generated from the simpler. The principle of origin establishes that there must be a maximum complexity that originates the others by logical deduction. Finally, the principle of unfolding and the principle of actualization guarantee the development of the evolutionary process from the simplest to the most (...)
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  18. The Unfolding of a New Vision of Life, Cosmos and Evolution.Agustin Ostachuk - 2020 - Ludus Vitalis 28 (53):81-83.
    Has science already answered the fundamental questions about the concepts of Life, Cosmos and Evolution? Has science not relegated these fundamental questions by following up on more immediate, “useful” and practical endeavors that ultimately ensure that the wheel of capitalism keeps spinning in its frantic search for material and economic progress? There is something terribly wrong with the current theory of evolution, understood as the Darwinian theory with its successive versions and extensions. The concept of natural selection, the cornerstone of (...)
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  19. Artificial Life and ‘Nature’s Purposes’: The Question of Behavioral Autonomy.Elena Popa - 2020 - Human Affairs 30 (4):587-596.
    This paper investigates the concept of behavioral autonomy in Artificial Life by drawing a parallel to the use of teleological notions in the study of biological life. Contrary to one of the leading assumptions in Artificial Life research, I argue that there is a significant difference in how autonomous behavior is understood in artificial and biological life forms: the former is underlain by human goals in a way that the latter is not. While behavioral traits can be explained in relation (...)
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  20. Internal Perspectivalism: The Solution to Generality Problems About Proper Function and Natural Norms.Jason Winning - 2020 - Biology and Philosophy 35 (33):1-22.
    In this paper, I argue that what counts as the proper function of a trait is a matter of the de facto perspective that the biological system, itself, possesses on what counts as proper functioning for that trait. Unlike non-perspectival accounts, internal perspectivalism does not succumb to generality problems. But unlike external perspectivalism, internal perspectivalism can provide a fully naturalistic, mind-independent grounding of proper function and natural norms. The attribution of perspectives to biological systems is intended to be neither metaphorical (...)
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  21. The Emotional Mind: The Affective Roots of Culture and Cognition.Stephen Asma & Rami Gabriel - 2019 - Harvard University Press.
    Tracing the leading role of emotions in the evolution of the mind, a philosopher and a psychologist pair up to reveal how thought and culture owe less to our faculty for reason than to our capacity to feel. Many accounts of the human mind concentrate on the brain’s computational power. Yet, in evolutionary terms, rational cognition emerged only the day before yesterday. For nearly 200 million years before humans developed a capacity to reason, the emotional centers of the brain were (...)
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  22. An Organisational Approach to Biological Communication.Ramiro Frick, Leonardo Bich & Alvaro Moreno - 2019 - Acta Biotheoretica (2):103-128.
    This paper aims to provide a philosophical and theoretical account of biological communication grounded in the notion of organisation. The organisational approach characterises living systems as organised in such a way that they are capable to self-produce and self-maintain while in constant interaction with the environment. To apply this theoretical framework to the study of biological communication, we focus on a specific approach, based on the notion of influence, according to which communication takes place when a signal emitted by a (...)
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  23. Do Constancy Mechanisms Save Distal Content?Justin Garson - 2019 - Philosophical Quarterly 69 (275):409-417.
    In this journal, Schulte develops a novel solution to the problem of distal content: by virtue of what is a mental representation about a distal object rather than a more proximal cause of that representation? Schulte maintains that in order for a representation to have a distal content, it must be produced by a constancy mechanism, along with two other conditions. I raise three objections to his solution. First, a core component of Schulte's solution is just a restrictive version of (...)
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  24. Teleosemantics, Selection and Novel Contents.Justin Garson & David Papineau - 2019 - Biology and Philosophy 34 (3):36.
    Mainstream teleosemantics is the view that mental representation should be understood in terms of biological functions, which, in turn, should be understood in terms of selection processes. One of the traditional criticisms of teleosemantics is the problem of novel contents: how can teleosemantics explain our ability to represent properties that are evolutionarily novel? In response, some have argued that by generalizing the notion of a selection process to include phenomena such as operant conditioning, and the neural selection that underlies it, (...)
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  25. Hume, Teleology, and the 'Science of Man'.Lorenzo Greco & Dan O'Brien - 2019 - In William Gibson, Dan O'Brien & Marius Turda (eds.), Teleology and Modernity. New York-London: Routledge. pp. 147-164.
    There are various forms of teleological thinking central to debates in the early modern and modern periods, debates in which David Hume (1711–1776) is a key figure. In the first section, we shall introduce three levels at which teleological considerations have been incorporated into philosophical accounts of man and nature, and sketch Hume’s criticisms of these approaches. In the second section, we turn to Hume’s non-teleological ‘science of man’. In the third section, we show how Hume has an account of (...)
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  26. Monsters, Laws of Nature, and Teleology in Late Scholastic Textbooks.Silvia Manzo - 2019 - In Pietro Omodeo & Rodolfo Garau (eds.), Contingency and Natural Order in Early Modern Science. Springer Verlag. pp. 61-92.
    In the period of emergence of early modern science, ‘monsters’ or individuals with physical congenital anomalies were considered as rare events which required special explanations entailing assumptions about the laws of nature. This concern with monsters was shared by representatives of the new science and Late Scholastic authors of university textbooks. This paper will reconstruct the main theses of the treatment of monsters in Late Scholastic textbooks, by focusing on the question as to how their accounts conceived nature’s regularity and (...)
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  27. The Organism and its Umwelt: A Counterpoint Between the Theories of Uexküll, Goldstein and Canguilhem.Agustin Ostachuk - 2019 - In Jakob von Uexküll and Philosophy: Life, Environments, Anthropology. Londres, Reino Unido: pp. 158-171.
    The topic of the relationship between the organism and its environment runs through the theories of Uexküll, Goldstein and Canguilhem with equal importance. In this work a counterpoint will be established between their theories, in the attempt to assess at which points the melodies are concordant and at which points they are discordant. As fundamental basis to his theory, Uexküll relies on the concept of conformity to a plan, which allows him to account for the congruity and perfect adjustment between (...)
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  28. The Quest for a Holistic and Historical-Developmental Theory of the Organism.Agustin Ostachuk - 2019 - Ludus Vitalis 27 (51):23-42.
    In this work the doctrine of organicism will be addressed, as explained and seen mainly by Bertalanffy. We will study how this doctrine represents and embodies the ambiguity of Kantian teleology as a regulative principle, and how this same problem leads to consider a real problem as a knowledge problem. It will be concluded that organicism, conceived in this way, does not represent a true holism, but what we will call a syn-holism, a synthesis or assembly, and that to obtain (...)
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  29. Essence in the Age of Evolution: A New Theory of Natural Kinds.Christopher J. Austin - 2018 - London, UK: Routledge.
    This book offers a novel defence of a highly contested philosophical position: biological natural kind essentialism. This theory is routinely and explicitly rejected for its purported inability to be explicated in the context of contemporary biological science, and its supposed incompatibility with the process and progress of evolution by natural selection. Christopher J. Austin challenges these objections, and in conjunction with contemporary scientific advancements within the field of evolutionary-developmental biology, the book utilises a contemporary neo-Aristotelian metaphysics of "dispositional properties", or (...)
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  30. How to Be a Function Pluralist.Justin Garson - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (4):1101-1122.
    I distinguish two forms of pluralism about biological functions, between-discipline pluralism and within-discipline pluralism. Between-discipline pluralism holds that different theories of function are appropriate for different subdisciplines of biology and psychology. I provide reasons for rejecting this view. Instead, I recommend within-discipline pluralism, which emphasizes the plurality of function concepts at play within any given subdiscipline of biology and psychology.
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  31. La teoría de la selección natural. Una exploración metacientífica.Santiago Ginnobili - 2018 - Bernal: Universidad Nacional de Quilmes.
    Este libro analiza y reconstruye una de las teorías científicas que más discusiones han provocado en el ámbito de la biología, de la filosofía y de la sociedad: la teoría de la selección natural. Esta teoría, que ocupa un lugar central en la biología evolutiva, se encuentra en el centro de la revolución darwiniana, uno de los cambios más radicales ocurridos en la historia de la ciencia y, sin dudas, uno de los que más consecuencias han tenido sobre la ciencia (...)
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  32. The Gestation of German Biology: Philosophy and Physiology From Stahl to Schelling.John Zammito - 2018 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  33. Forces, Friction and Fractionation: Denis Walsh’s Organisms, Agency, and Evolution: 294 Pp, Hardcover, ISBN: 1107122104. [REVIEW]Andrew Buskell & Adrian Currie - 2017 - Biology and Philosophy 32 (6):1341-1353.
    In Denis Walsh’s Organisms, Agency, and Evolution, he argues that new developments in the science of biology motivate a radical change to our metaphysical picture of life: what he calls ‘Situated Darwinism’. The central claim is that we should take the biological world to be at base about organisms, and organisms in a fundamentally teleological sense. We critically examine Walsh’s arguments and suggest further developments.
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  34. A Generalized Selected Effects Theory of Function.Justin Garson - 2017 - Philosophy of Science 84 (3):523-543.
    I present and defend the generalized selected effects theory (GSE) of function. According to GSE, the function of a trait consists in the activity that contributed to its bearer’s differential reproduction, or differential retention, within a population. Unlike the traditional selected effects (SE) theory, it does not require that the functional trait helped its bearer reproduce; differential retention is enough. Although the core theory has been presented previously, I go significantly beyond those presentations by providing a new argument for GSE (...)
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  35. Against Organizational Functions.Justin Garson - 2017 - Philosophy of Science 84 (5):1093-1103.
    Over the last 20 years, several philosophers have developed a new approach to biological functions, the organizational approach. This is not a single theory but a family of theories based on the idea that a trait token can acquire a function by virtue of the way it contributes to a complex, organized system and thereby to its own continued persistence as a token. I argue that the organizational approach faces a serious liberality objection. I examine three different ways organizational theorists (...)
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  36. Teleology and Biocentrism.Sune Holm - 2017 - Synthese 194 (4).
    In this paper I examine the connection between accounts of biological teleology and the biocentrist claim that all living beings have a good of their own. I first present the background for biocentrists’ appeal to biological teleology. Then I raise a problem of scope for teleology-based biocentrism and, drawing in part on recent work by Basl and Sandler, I discuss Taylor and Varner’s responses to this problem. I then challenge Basl and Sandler’s own response to the scope problem for its (...)
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  37. Téléologie et fonctions en biologie. Une approche non causale des explications téléofonctionnelles.Alberto Molina Pérez - 2017 - Dissertation, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
    This dissertation is focused on teleology and functions in biology. More precisely, it focuses on the scientific legitimacy of teleofunctional attributions and explanations in biology. It belongs to a multi-faceted debate that can be traced back to at least the 1970s. One aspect of the debate concerns the naturalization of functions. Most authors try to reduce, translate or explain functions and teleology in terms of efficient causes so that they find their place in the framework of the natural sciences. Our (...)
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  38. What Makes Biological Organisation Teleological?Matteo Mossio & Leonardo Bich - 2017 - Synthese 194 (4):1089-1114.
    This paper argues that biological organisation can be legitimately conceived of as an intrinsically teleological causal regime. The core of the argument consists in establishing a connection between organisation and teleology through the concept of self-determination: biological organisation determines itself in the sense that the effects of its activity contribute to determine its own conditions of existence. We suggest that not any kind of circular regime realises self-determination, which should be specifically understood as self-constraint: in biological systems, in particular, self-constraint (...)
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  39. The Five Marks of the Mental.Tuomas K. Pernu - 2017 - Frontiers in Psychology 8.
    The mental realm seems different to the physical realm; the mental is thought to be dependent on, yet distinct from the physical. But how, exactly, are the two realms supposed to be different, and what, exactly, creates the seemingly insurmountable juxtaposition between the mental and the physical? This review identifies and discusses five marks of the mental, features that set characteristically mental phenomena apart from the characteristically physical phenomena. These five marks (intentionality, consciousness, free will, teleology, and normativity) are not (...)
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  40. Teleology in the Ancient World: Philosophical and Medical Approaches.Julius Rocca (ed.) - 2017 - Cambridge University Press.
    The ancient origins of teleological concepts are sometimes either conveniently forgotten or given a distorted appearance. On the one hand, ancient teleology has been obscured by the theological cloak of creationism. On the other, Darwinists have sometimes failed to give due consideration to the variety and subtlety of teleology's intellectual antecedents. The purpose of this book is to restore the balance by looking at the manifold ways in which teleology in antiquity was viewed. The volume, consisting of twelve essays by (...)
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  41. How Objective Are Biological Functions?Marcel Weber - 2017 - Synthese 194 (12):4741-4755.
    John Searle has argued that functions owe their existence to the value that we put into life and survival. In this paper, I will provide a critique of Searle’s argument concerning the ontology of functions. I rely on a standard analysis of functional predicates as relating not only a biological entity, an activity that constitutes the function of this entity and a type of system but also a goal state. A functional attribution without specification of such a goal state has (...)
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  42. Cases of Celestial Teleology in Metaphysics Λ.István Bodnár - 2016 - In Christoph Horn (ed.), Aristotle’s "Metaphysics" Lambda – New Essays. De Gruyter. pp. 247-268.
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  43. Peat Bogs, Sperm, and Family Values: Teaching Naturalism Charitably.Marc Champagne - 2016 - Sexuality and Culture 20 (3):526–534.
    Introductory courses dealing with sex, gender and sexuality often assign excerpts from Thomas Aquinas as an exemplar of the naturalist view. Given that most novice students tend to side against such naturalism uncritically, they need to be exposed to a more charitable account of the biological considerations motivating a stance like Aquinas.’ With that in mind, this article presents accessible arguments aimed at restoring deliberative balance in the classroom.
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  44. A Teleofunctional Account of Evolutionary Mismatch.Nathan Cofnas - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (4):507-525.
    When the environment in which an organism lives deviates in some essential way from that to which it is adapted, this is described as “evolutionary mismatch,” or “evolutionary novelty.” The notion of mismatch plays an important role, explicitly or implicitly, in evolution-informed cognitive psychology, clinical psychology, and medicine. The evolutionary novelty of our contemporary environment is thought to have significant implications for our health and well-being. However, scientists have generally been working without a clear definition of mismatch. This paper defines (...)
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  45. Descartes on the Theory of Life and Methodology in the Life Sciences.Karen Detlefsen - 2016 - In Peter Distelzweig & Evan Ragland (eds.), Early Modern Medicine and Natural Philosophy. Springer. pp. 141-72.
    As a practicing life scientist, Descartes must have a theory of what it means to be a living being. In this paper, I provide an account of what his theoretical conception of living bodies must be. I then show that this conception might well run afoul of his rejection of final causal explanations in natural philosophy. Nonetheless, I show how Descartes might have made use of such explanations as merely hypothetical, even though he explicitly blocks this move. I conclude by (...)
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  46. A Critical Overview of Biological Functions.Justin Garson - 2016 - Dordrecht: Springer.
    This book is a critical survey of and guidebook to the literature on biological functions. It ties in with current debates and developments, and at the same time, it looks back on the state of discourse in naturalized teleology prior to the 1970s. It also presents three significant new proposals. First, it describes the generalized selected effects theory, which is one version of the selected effects theory, maintaining that the function of a trait consists in the activity that led to (...)
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  47. Wie Epigenetik unser Weltbild ins Lot bringen kann.Paul Gottlob Layer - 2016 - BRIEFE Zur Orientierung Im Konflikt Mensch - Erde, Evangelische Akademie Sachsen-Anhalt E.V 121 (4):25-33.
    Seit der Aufklärung versucht der Mensch, Gott abzuschaffen. Dabei fällt der Zufälligkeit, und damit auch der Ziellosigkeit in der darwinistischen Sicht der Evolution besonderes Gewicht zu. Diese weithin akzeptierten Dogmen stehen diametral gegen jahrtausendealte Vorstellungen, die letztlich in allen Kulturen und Religionen hervorgebracht wurden, daß die Natur eine Schöpfung Gottes sei, in der der Mensch das höchste, Gott-ebenbildliche Wesen sei. Nach Erkenntnissen der klassischen Genetik schienen Gene an die Stelle von Gott getreten zu sein: sie haben absolute Gewalt und beherrschen (...)
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  48. Can Evolution Be Directional Without Being Teleological?George R. McGhee - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 58:93-99.
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  49. Freedom and Purpose in Biology.Daniel W. McShea - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 58:64–72.
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  50. A Vital Challenge to Materialism.Jesse M. Mulder - 2016 - Philosophy 91 (2):153-182.
    Life poses a threat to materialism. To understand the phenomena of animate nature, we make use of a teleological form of explanation that is peculiar to biology, of explanations in terms of what I call the ‘vital categories’ – and this holds even for accounts of underlying physico-chemical ‘mechanisms’. The materialist claims that this teleological form of explanation does not capture what is metaphysically fundamental, whereas her preferred physical form of explanation does. In this essay, I do three things. (1) (...)
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