Midwest Studies in Philosophy 35 (1):179-204 (2011)

Jeffrey McDonough
Harvard University
This paper offers a non-traditional account of what was really at stake in debates over the legitimacy of teleology and teleological explanations in the later medieval and early modern periods. It is divided into four main sections. The first section highlights two defining features of ancient and early medieval views on teleology, namely, that teleological explanations are on a par (or better) with efficient causal explanations, and that the objective goodness of outcomes may explain their coming about. The second section argues that it was the first thesis – the thesis of explanatory parity –that came under attack by mainstream philosophers in the later medieval and early modern traditions, rather than teleology per se. The third section argues similarly that it was the second thesis – the thesis of explanatory goodness – that was the object of Spinoza’s critique of final causes, rather than teleology itself. Finally, the fourth section argues that Leibniz’s claim to be a champion of traditional teleology rests on his willingness to defend both the theses of explanatory parity and goodness against the very charges that led to their demise. The essay concludes by contrasting the narrative offered here with Don Garrett’s recent account according to which “it is not Leibniz but Spinoza who holds the position on teleology and teleological explanation nearest to that of Aristotle” (312).
Keywords teleology  Leibniz  Spinoza
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DOI 10.1111/j.1475-4975.2011.00218.x
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A Study of Spinoza's 'Ethics'.Jonathan Bennett - 1984 - Cambridge University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Du Châtelet on Freedom, Self-Motion, and Moral Necessity.Julia Jorati - 2019 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 57 (2):255-280.
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Leibniz on Causation – Part 2.Julia Jorati - 2015 - Philosophy Compass 10 (6):398-405.
Spinoza’s Analysis of His Imagined Readers’ Axiology.Benedict Rumbold - 2021 - Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 103 (2):281-312.

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