The Monist 75 (1):34-51 (1992)

Authors
Mark Bedau
Reed College
Abstract
We can readily identify goal-directed systems and distinguish them from non-goal-directed systems. A woodpecker hunting for grubs is the first, a pendulum returning to rest is the second. But what is it to be a goal-directed system? Perhaps the dominant answer to this question, inspired by systems theories such as cybernetics, is that goal-directed systems are distinguished by their tendency to seek, aim at, or maintain some more-or-less easily identifiable goal. Cybernetics and the like would hold that physical systems subject only to physical laws can exhibit such behavior. If sound, this systems approach to teleology would unify a diverse range of goal-directed phenomena and neatly side-step many traditional bogey-men of teleology, such as anthropomorphism and future causation. Goal-directed phenomena would be a normal feature of the natural causal world that could be described in purely descriptive and quantitative terms, and receive ordinary causal explanations. Thus, the systems approach promises to provide a naturalistic-cum-descriptive account of teleology suitable for use in naturalistic accounts of other phenomena, including the intentionality of mental states and even self-consciousness.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest  Philosophy of Mind  Philosophy of Science
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ISBN(s) 0026-9662
DOI 10.5840/monist19927516
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References found in this work BETA

Minds, Brains, and Programs.John R. Searle - 1980 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (3):417-57.
The Case for Animal Rights.Tom Regan - 1983 - University of California Press, C1983.

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