Upper-directed systems: a new approach to teleology in biology

Biology and Philosophy 27 (5):663-684 (2012)
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Abstract

How shall we understand apparently teleological systems? What explains their persistence and their plasticity? Here I argue that all seemingly goal-directed systems—e.g., a food-seeking organism, human-made devices like thermostats and torpedoes, biological development, human goal seeking, and the evolutionary process itself—share a common organization. Specifically, they consist of an entity that moves within a larger containing structure, one that directs its behavior in a general way without precisely determining it. If so, then teleology lies within the domain of the theory of compositional hierarchies.

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Dan McShea
Duke University

Citations of this work

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References found in this work

Functional analysis.Robert E. Cummins - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.
Functions.Larry Wright - 1973 - Philosophical Review 82 (2):139-168.
The Architecture of Complexity.Herbert A. Simon - 1962 - Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 106.

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