Teleology Without Tears

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 37 (3):351-369 (2007)
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Abstract

In this paper I outline a role for mechanistic conceptions of organisms in ancient Greek natural philosophy, especially the study of organisms. By ‘mechanistic conceptions’ I mean the use of ideas and techniques drawn from the field of mechanics to investigate the natural world. ‘Mechanistic conceptions’ of organisms in ancient Greek philosophy, then, are those that draw on the ancient understanding of the field called ‘mechanics’ — hê mêchanikê technê—to investigate living things, rather than those bearing some perceived similarity to modern notions of ‘the mechanical.’ I have argued elsewhere that evidence of mechanistic conceptions of the natural world can be found, not only among seventeenth and eighteenth century ‘mechanical philosophers,’ but also—albeit in vestigial form — in some ancient Greek texts. Unfortunately, these reports are slight, often by detractors of this approach, and offer only clues as to the motivational context for employing these mechanical conceptions. Here, my purpose is to suggest what role they might have played in the history of natural philosophy.

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Sylvia Berryman
University of British Columbia

Citations of this work

The clockwork universe and the mechanical hypothesis.Sylvia Berryman - 2021 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 29 (5):806-823.
Aristotle’s Teleology. [REVIEW]Rich Cameron - 2010 - Philosophy Compass 5 (12):1096-1106.

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References found in this work

Aristotle on teleology.Monte Ransome Johnson - 2008 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
In defense of dispositions.D. H. Mellor - 1974 - Philosophical Review 83 (2):157-181.
Cause and explanation in ancient Greek thought.R. J. Hankinson - 1998 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The Presocratic Philosophers.G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven & M. Schofield - 1983 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 36 (4):465-469.

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