A trilemma for teleological individualism

Synthese 194 (4):1027-1029 (2017)
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This paper addresses the foundations of Teleological Individualism, the view that organisms, even non-sentient organisms, are goal-oriented systems while biological collectives, such as ecosystems or conspecific groups, are mere assemblages of organisms. Typical defenses of Teleological Individualism ground the teleological organization of organisms in the workings of natural selection. This paper shows that grounding teleological organization in natural selection is antithetical to Teleological Individualism because such views assume a view about the units of selection on which it is only individual organisms that are units of selection. However, none of the Conventionalist, Reductionist, or Multi-Level Realist theories serve to justify such an assumption. Thus, Teleological Individualism cannot be grounded in natural selection.

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John Basl
Northeastern University

Citations of this work

Why Wake the Dead? Identity and De-extinction.Christopher Hunter Lean - 2020 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 33 (3):571-589.
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 (C):1-9.

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References found in this work

On Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse - 1999 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Animal Liberation.Peter Singer (ed.) - 1977 - Avon Books.
On the origin of species.Charles Darwin - 2008 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Gillian Beer.
Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection.Peter Godfrey-Smith - 2009 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.

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