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Subcategories:History/traditions: Teleology and Function

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  1. The Function of Pain.Laurenz C. Casser - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-15.
    Various prominent theories of pain assume that it is pain’s biological function to inform organisms about damage to their bodies. I argue that this is a mistake. First, there is no biological evidence to support the notion that pain was originally selected for its informative capacities, nor that it currently contributes to the fitness of organisms in this specific capacity. Second, neurological evidence indicates that modulating mechanisms in the nociceptive system systematically prevent pain from serving a primarily informative role. These (...)
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  2. Etiological Kinds.Muhammad Ali Khalidi - forthcoming - Philosophy of Science.
    Kinds that share historical properties are dubbed “historical kinds” or “etiological kinds” and they have some distinctive features. I will try to characterize etiological kinds in general terms and briefly survey some previous philosophical discussions of these kinds. Then I will take a closer look at a few case studies involving different types of etiological kinds. Finally, I will try to understand the rationale for classifying on the basis of etiology, putting forward reasons for classifying phenomena based on diachronic features, (...)
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  3. Collectivized Intellectualism.Julia Jael Smith & Benjamin Wald - 2019 - Res Philosophica 96 (2):199-227.
    We argue that the evolutionary function of reasoning is to allow us to secure more accurate beliefs and more effective intentions through collective deliberation. This sets our view apart both from traditional intellectualist accounts, which take the evolutionary function to be individual deliberation, and from interactionist accounts such as the one proposed by Mercier and Sperber, which agrees that the function of reasoning is collective but holds that it aims to disseminate, rather than come up with, accurate beliefs. We argue (...)
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  4. Teleology in Jewish Philosophy: Early Talmudists Till Spinoza.Yitzhak Melamed - forthcoming - In Jeffrey McDonough (ed.), Teleology: A History. New York, NY, USA:
    Medieval and early modern Jewish philosophers developed their thinking in conversation with various bodies of literature. The influence of ancient Greek – primarily Aristotle (and pseudo-Aristotle) – and Arabic sources was fundamental for the very constitution of medieval Jewish philosophical discourse. Toward the late Middle Ages Jewish philosophers also established a critical dialogue with Christian scholastics. Next to these philosophical corpora, Jewish philosophers drew significantly upon Rabbinic sources (Talmud and the numerous Midrashim) and the Hebrew Bible. In order to clarify (...)
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  5. Cuvierian Functionalism.Aaron Novick - 2019 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 11.
    This paper makes the case that evolutionary-developmental biology, in explaining the deep conservation of animal body plans, relies on a Cuvierian functionalist explanatory strategy. Philosophical analysis commonly treats evo-devo as a “typological” research program, in contrast to the population thinking that undergirds population-genetic approaches to evolutionary theorizing. The central aim of this paper is to show that many of the features that have led evo-devo to be treated as typological are in fact the product of its Cuvierian functionalism. To achieve (...)
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  6. On the Meaning of Biological Contingencies for Human Lives.Eric Desjardins - 2019 - Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology 11.
    Turning Points by Kostas Kampourakis offers a view of human life that is opposed to teleological reasoning, or more precisely to the tendency to infer design and grounds for faith while observing and explaining human life. While this common theme in the history of philosophy of science has mostly been related to Natural Theology, Kampourakis’s arguments against the “design stance” go beyond the idea that the appearance of design implies the existence of an intelligent Being responsible for the presence of (...)
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  7. A Unifying Theory of Biological Function.J. Hateren - 2017 - Biological Theory 12 (2):112-126.
    A new theory that naturalizes biological function is explained and compared with earlier etiological and causal role theories. Etiological theories explain functions from how they are caused over their evolutionary history. Causal role theories analyze how functional mechanisms serve the current capacities of their containing system. The new proposal unifies the key notions of both kinds of theories, but goes beyond them by explaining how functions in an organism can exist as factors with autonomous causal efficacy. The goal-directedness and normativity (...)
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  8. Neo-Aristotelian Naturalism and the Evolutionary Objection: Rethinking the Relevance of Empirical Science.Parisa Moosavi - 2018 - In John Hacker-Wright (ed.), Philippa Foot on Goodness and Virtue. pp. 277-307.
    Neo-Aristotelian metaethical naturalism is a modern attempt at naturalizing ethics using ideas from Aristotle’s teleological metaphysics. Proponents of this view argue that moral virtue in human beings is an instance of natural goodness, a kind of goodness supposedly also found in the realm of non-human living things. Many critics question whether neo-Aristotelian naturalism is tenable in light of modern evolutionary biology. Two influential lines of objection have appealed to an evolutionary understanding of human nature and natural teleology to argue against (...)
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  9. Functional Ecology's Non-Selectionist Understanding of Function.Antoine C. Dussault - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 70:1-9.
    This paper reinforces the current consensus against the applicability of the selected effect theory of function in ecology. It does so by presenting an argument which, in contrast with the usual argument invoked in support of this consensus, is not based on claims about whether ecosystems are customary units of natural selection. Instead, the argument developed here is based on observations about the use of the function concept in functional ecology, and more specifically, research into the relationship between biodiversity and (...)
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  10. There Are No Ahistorical Theories of Function.Justin Garson - forthcoming - Philosophy of Science.
    Theories of function are conventionally divided up into historical and ahistorical ones. Proponents of ahistorical theories often cite the ahistoricity of their accounts as a major virtue. Here, I argue that none of the mainstream “ahistorical” accounts are actually ahistorical. All of them embed, implicitly or explicitly, an appeal to history. In Boorse’s goal-contribution account, history is latent in the idea of statistical-typicality. In the propensity theory, history is implicit in the idea of a species’ natural habitat. In the causal (...)
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  11. What Biological Functions Are and Why They Matter.Justin Garson - 2019 - Cambridge University Press.
    The biological functions debate is a perennial topic in the philosophy of science. In the first full-length account of the nature and importance of biological functions for many years, Justin Garson presents an innovative new theory, the 'generalized selected effects theory of function', which seamlessly integrates evolutionary and developmental perspectives on biological functions. He develops the implications of the theory for contemporary debates in the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of medicine and psychiatry, the philosophy of biology, and biology itself, (...)
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  12. Gender as a Historical Kind: A Tale of Two Genders?Marion Godman - 2018 - Biology and Philosophy 33 (3-4):21.
    Is there anything that members of each binary category of gender have in common? Even many non-essentialists find the lack of unity within a gender worrying as it undermines the basis for a common political agenda for women. One promising proposal for achieving unity is by means of a shared historical lineage of cultural reproduction with past binary models of gender. I demonstrate how such an account is likely to take on board different binary and also non-binary systems of gender. (...)
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  13. Note on the Individuation of Biological Traits.Mihnea D. I. Capraru - 2018 - Journal of Philosophy 115 (4):215-221.
    Bence Nanay has argued that we must abandon the etiological theory of teleological function because this theory explains functions and functional categories in a circular manner. Paul Griffiths argued earlier that we should retain the etiological theory and instead prevent the circularity by making etiologies independent of functional categories. Karen Neander and Alex Rosenberg reply to Nanay similarly, and argue that we should analyze functions in terms of natural selection acting not on functional categories, but merely on lineages. Nanay replies (...)
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  14. Philosophical Accounts of Biological Functions. [REVIEW]Maël Montévil - 2017 - Science & Education 26 (7-9):1071-1073.
    The book A critical overview of biological functions is a short monograph by J. Garson, which provides a survey of the views on biological functions in the analytic tradition of philosophy. The notion of function is ubiquitous in biology and all of its subfields. Behind the notion of biological functions lurks the shadow of final causes. Overcoming this shadow is a challenge that has stimulated many philosophers and the literature on this topic is very rich. In the analytic tradition, researchers (...)
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  15. Learning and Selection Processes.Marc Artiga - 2010 - Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 25 (2):197-209.
    In this paper I defend a teleological explanation of normativity, i. e., I argue that what an organism is supposed to do is determined by its etiological function. In particular, I present a teleological account of the normativity that arises in learning processes, and I defend it from some objections.
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  16. Moral Physiology and Vivisection of the Soul: Why Does Nietzsche Criticize the Life Sciences?Ian D. Dunkle - 2018 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 61 (1):62-81.
    Recent scholarship has shown Nietzsche to offer an original and insightful moral psychology centering on a motivational feature he calls ‘will to power.’ In many places, though, Nietzsche presents will to power differently, as the ‘essence of life,’ an account of ‘organic function,’ even offering it as a correction to physiologists. This paper clarifies the scope and purpose of will to power by identifying the historical physiological view at which Nietzsche directs his criticisms and by identifying his purpose in doing (...)
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  17. Teleologie ohne Telos?Eve-Marie Engels - 1982 - Zeitschrift Für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 13 (1):122-165.
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  18. Is It Really so Easy to Model Biological Evolution in Terms of Design-Free Cumulative Selection?Peter Punin - manuscript
    Abstract: Without directly taking sides in the design/anti-design debate, this paper defends the following position: the assertion that biological evolution “is” design-free presupposes the possibility to model biological evolution in a design-free way. Certainly, there are design-free models of evolution based on cumulative selection. But “to model” is a verb denoting “modeling” as the process leading to a model. So any modeling – trivially – needs “previous human design.” Nevertheless, contrary to other scientific activities which legitimately consider models while ignoring (...)
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  19. Functional Biodiversity and the Concept of Ecological Function.Antoine C. Dussault - 2019 - In Elena Casetta, Davide Vecchi & Jorge Miguel Luz Marques da Silva (eds.), From Assessing to Conserving biodiversity: Beyond the Species Approach. Dordrecht, Pays-Bas: Springer. pp. 297-316.
    This chapter argues that the common claim that the ascription of ecological functions to organisms in functional ecology raises issues about levels of natural selection is ill-founded. This claim, I maintain, mistakenly assumes that the function concept as understood in functional ecology aligns with the selected effect theory of function advocated by many philosophers of biology (sometimes called “The Standard Line” on functions). After exploring the implications of Wilson and Sober’s defence of multilevel selection for the prospects of defending a (...)
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  20. Teleology Revisited, and Other Essays in the Philosophy and History of Science.Patrick Suppes - 1980 - Journal of Philosophy 77 (12):820-824.
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  21. Aristotelian Essentialism: Essence in the Age of Evolution.Christopher Austin - 2017 - Synthese 194 (7):2539-2556.
    The advent of contemporary evolutionary theory ushered in the eventual decline of Aristotelian Essentialism (Æ) – for it is widely assumed that essence does not, and cannot have any proper place in the age of evolution. This paper argues that this assumption is a mistake: if Æ can be suitably evolved, it need not face extinction. In it, I claim that if that theory’s fundamental ontology consists of dispositional properties, and if its characteristic metaphysical machinery is interpreted within the framework (...)
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  22. Gaia and the Anthropocene; or, The Return of Teleology.D. Bondi - 2015 - Télos 2015 (172):125-137.
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  23. Mental Acts and Mechanistic Psychology in Descartes' Passions.Gary Hatfield - 2008 - In Neil Robertson, Gordon McOuat & Tom Vinci (eds.), Descartes and the Modern. Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 49-71.
    This chapter examines the mechanistic psychology of Descartes in the _Passions_, while also drawing on the _Treatise on Man_. It develops the idea of a Cartesian “psychology” that relies on purely bodily mechanisms by showing that he explained some behaviorally appropriate responses through bodily mechanisms alone and that he envisioned the tailoring of such responses to environmental circumstances through a purely corporeal “memory.” An animal’s adjustment of behavior as caused by recurring patterns of sensory stimulation falls under the notion of (...)
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  24. Causality, Teleology, and Thought Experiments in Biology.Marco Buzzoni - 2015 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 46 (2):279-299.
    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 (...)
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  25. Contemporary Philosophical Naturalism and its Implications.Bana Bashour & Hans D. Muller (eds.) - 2013 - Routledge.
    One of the most pervasive and persistent questions in philosophy is the relationship between the natural sciences and traditional philosophical categories such as metaphysics, epistemology and the mind. _Contemporary Philosophical Naturalism and Its Implications _is a unique and valuable contribution to the literature on this issue. It brings together a remarkable collection of highly regarded experts in the field along with some young theorists providing a fresh perspective. This book is noteworthy for bringing together committed philosophical naturalists, thus diverging from (...)
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  26. Normative Characterization in Biological and Cognitive Explanations.Mark Bauer - 2015 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 30 (2):271-286.
    Normative characterization is a commonplace feature of biological and cognitive explanation. Such language seems to commit the biological and cognitive sciences to the existence of natural norms, but it is also difficult to understand how such normativity fits into a natural world of physical causes and forces. I propose to map normativity onto systems stabilized by counteractive constraints. Such a mapping, I believe, can explain normativity’s causal-explanatory role in biological and cognitive inquiry. The common approach in the literature is to (...)
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  27. Xenotransplantation Exposes the Etiology of Azoospermia Factor Induced Male Sterility.Justinn Barr, Daniel Gordon, Paul Schedl & Girish Deshpande - 2015 - Bioessays 37 (3):278-283.
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  28. Satisfaction Conditions in Anticipatory Mechanisms.Marcin Miłkowski - 2015 - Biology and Philosophy 30 (5):709-728.
    The purpose of this paper is to present a general mechanistic framework for analyzing causal representational claims, and offer a way to distinguish genuinely representational explanations from those that invoke representations for honorific purposes. It is usually agreed that rats are capable of navigation because they maintain a cognitive map of their environment. Exactly how and why their neural states give rise to mental representations is a matter of an ongoing debate. I will show that anticipatory mechanisms involved in rats’ (...)
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  29. 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 (...)
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  30. Peter Godfrey-Smith, Complexity and the Function of Mind in Nature. [REVIEW]Paul Raymont - 1997 - Philosophy in Review 17 (1):35-38.
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  31. Principles of Self-Generation and Self-Maintenance.U. An Der Heiden, G. Roth & H. Schwegler - 1985 - Acta Biotheoretica 34 (2-4):125-137.
    Living systems are characterized as self-generating and self-maintaining systems. This type of characterization allows integration of a wide variety of detailed knowledge in biology.The paper clarifies general notions such as processes, systems, and interactions. Basic properties of self-generating systems, i.e. systems which produce their own parts and hence themselves, are discussed and exemplified. This makes possible a clear distinction between living beings and ordinary machines. Stronger conditions are summarized under the concept of self-maintenance as an almost unique character of living (...)
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  32. Millikan and China.W. Zhang - 1996 - Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science 179:439-446.
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  33. Representation in Biological Systems: Teleofunction, Etiology, and Structural Preservation.Michael Nair-Collins - 2013 - In Liz Swan (ed.), Origins of Mind. pp. 161--185.
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  34. Irreducible Complexity and Darwinian Gradualism: A Reply to Michael J. Behe.Paul Draper - 2002 - Faith and Philosophy 19 (1):3-21.
    In Darwin’s Black Box, Michael J. Behe argues that, because certain biochemical systems are both irreducibly complex and very complex, it is extremely unlikely that they evolved gradually by Darwinian mechanisms, and so extremely likely that they were intelligently designed. I begin this paper by explaining Behe’s argument and defending it against the very common but clearly mistaken charge that it is just a rehash of William Paley’s design argument. Then I critically discuss a number of more serious objections to (...)
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  35. The Teleological Theory of Representation.David Papineau - unknown
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  36. Causal Theories and Unusual Causal Pathways.Berent Enç - 1989 - Philosophical Studies 55 (3):231 - 261.
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  37. Homuncular Functionalism Meets PDP.William G. Lycan - 1991 - In William Ramsey, Stephen P. Stich & D. Rumelhart (eds.), Philosophy and Connectionist Theory. Lawrence Erlbaum.
  38. Thought and its Function.Addison W. Moore - 1912 - Mind 21 (82):233-237.
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Teleology
  1. The Technologisation of Grace and Theology: Meta-Theological Insights From Transhumanism.King-Ho Leung - forthcoming - Studies in Christian Ethics.
    This article examines some of the recent theological critiques of the movement of technological human enhancement known as ‘transhumanism’. Drawing on the comparisons between grace and technology often found in the theological discourse on transhumanism, this article argues that the Thomistic distinction between healing grace and elevating grace can not only supplement the theological analysis of transhumanism and its ethical implications, but also help Christian theologians and ethicists become more aware of how the phenomenon of technology may have implicitly shaped (...)
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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. The Umwelt of Uexküll and Merleau-Ponty.Agustin Ostachuk - 2013 - Ludus Vitalis 21 (39):45-65.
    The organism against its environment. The organism against other organisms, competing and struggling for life. Antagonism and confrontment as the only possible relation in nature. The tendency to anthropomorphize nature and explain it using concepts and facts from the human sphere. A stroll through the worlds of Uexküll and Merleau-Ponty in the search of alternative knowledge that allow us to understand relation from another point of view. A counterpoint and identification of common tonalities between the research programs from both thinkers (...)
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  5. The Principle of Life: from Aristotelian Psyche to Drieschian Entelechy.Agustin Ostachuk - 2016 - Ludus Vitalis 24 (45):37-59.
    Is life a simple result of a conjunction of physico-chemical processes? Can be reduced to a mere juxtaposition of spatially determined events? What epistemology or world-view allows us to comprehend it? Aristotle built a novel philosophical system in which nature is a dynamical totality which is in constant movement. Life is a manifestation of it, and is formed and governed by the psyche. Psyche is the organizational principle of the different biological levels: nutritive, perceptive and intelective. Driesch's crucial experiment provided (...)
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  6. 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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  7. 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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  8. 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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  9. Max Scheler: dall’antropologia filosofica del Geist all’antropologia filosofica della Bildung.Guido Cusinato - 2010 - Giornale di Filosofia 1:1-29.
  10. 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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  11. Speusippus, Theophrastus, and the Metaphysics of Value : Theophrastus’ Metaphysics 11a18–26.Wei Cheng - forthcoming - Journal of Hellenic Studies.
    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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  12. 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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