The Inexplicability of Kant’s Naturzweck: Kant on Teleology, Explanation and Biology

Abstract

Kant’s position on teleology and biology is neither inconsistent nor obsolete; his arguments have some surprising and enduring philosophical strengths. But Kant’s account will appear weak if we muddy the waters by reading him as aiming to defend teleology by appealing to considerations popular in contemporary philosophy. Kant argues for very different conclusions: we can neither know teleological judgments of living beings to be true, nor legitimately explain living beings in teleological terms; such teleological judgment is justified only as a “problematic” guideline in our search for mechanistic explanations. These conclusions are well supported by Kant’s defense of his demanding analysis, according to which teleological judgment literally applies to a complex whole only where teleology truly explains the presence of its parts.

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James Kreines
Claremont McKenna College

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Citations of this work

Kant on Biological Teleology: Towards a Two-Level Interpretation.Marcel Quarfood - 2006 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 37 (4):735-747.
Schelling on Understanding Organisms.Anton Kabeshkin - 2017 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 25 (6):1180-1201.

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