Two separate research programs have revealed two different factors that feature in our judgments of whether some entity persists. One program—inspired by Knobe—has found that normative considerations affect persistence judgments. For instance, people are more inclined to view a thing as persisting when the changes it undergoes lead to improvements. The other program—inspired by Kelemen—has found that teleological considerations affect persistence judgments. For instance, people are more inclined to view a thing as persisting when it preserves its purpose. Our goal (...) in this paper is to determine what causes persistence judgments. Across four studies, we pit normative considerations against teleological considerations. And using causal modeling procedures, we find a consistent, robust pattern with teleological and not normative considerations directly causing persistence judgments. Our findings put teleology in the driver’s seat, while at the same time shedding further light on our folk notion of an object. (shrink)
The ultimate source of explanation in biology is the principle of natural selection. Natural selection means differential reproduction of genes and gene combinations. It is a mechanistic process which accounts for the existence in living organisms of end-directed structures and processes. It is argued that teleological explanations in biology are not only acceptable but indeed indispensable. There are at least three categories of biological phenomena where teleological explanations are appropriate.
The teleological approach to an epistemic concept investigates it by asking questions such as ‘what is the purpose of the concept?’, ‘What role has it played in the past?’, or ‘If we imagine a society without the concept, why would they feel the need to invent it?’ The idea behind the teleological approach is that examining the function of the concept illuminates the contours of the concept itself. This approach is a relatively new development in epistemology, and as yet there (...) are few works examining it. This paper aims to fill this gap and engender further understanding of the teleological method. I first contrast the teleological method with more orthodox approaches in epistemology. I then draw a three-way taxonomy of different kinds of teleological approach and provide an example of each kind. The teleological approach is often presented as antithetical to the more orthodox approaches in epistemology, and so in competition with them. I demur. I argue that the methods can be fruitfully combined in epistemological theorising; in the final section I suggest specific ways the teleological approach can be incorporated alongside more orthodox methods in a general methodological reflective equilibrium. (shrink)
Natural/social kind essentialism is the view that natural kind categories, both living and non-living natural kinds, as well as social kinds (e.g., race, gender), are essentialized. On this view, artifactual kinds are not essentialized. Our view—teleological essentialism—is that a broad range of categories are essentialized in terms of teleology, including artifacts. Utilizing the same kinds of experiments typically used to provide evidence of essentialist thinking—involving superficial change (study 1), transformation of insides (study 2) and inferences about offspring (study 3)—we (...) find support for the view that a broad range of categories—living natural kinds, non-living natural kinds and artifactual kinds—are essentialized in terms of teleology. Study 4 tests a unique prediction of teleological essentialism and also provides evidence that people make inferences about purposes which in turn guide categorization judgments. (shrink)
When it comes to epistemic normativity, should we take the good to be prior to the right? That is, should we ground facts about what we ought and ought not believe on a given occasion in facts about the value of being in certain cognitive states (such as, for example, the value of having true beliefs)? The overwhelming answer among contemporary epistemologists is “Yes, we should.” This essay argues to the contrary. Just as taking the good to be prior to (...) the right in ethics often leads one to sanction implausible trade-offs when determining what an agent should do, so too, this essay argues, taking the good to be prior to the right in epistemology leads one to sanction implausible trade-offs when determining what a subject should believe. Epistemic value—and, by extension, epistemic goals—are not the explanatory foundation upon which all other normative notions in epistemology rest. (shrink)
Placeholder essentialism is the view that there is a causal essence that holds category members together, though we may not know what the essence is. Sometimes the placeholder can be filled in by scientific essences, such as when we acquire scientific knowledge that the atomic weight of gold is 79. We challenge the view that placeholders are elaborated by scientific essences. On our view, if placeholders are elaborated, they are elaborated Aristotelian essences, a telos. Utilizing the same kinds of experiments (...) used by traditional essentialists—involving superficial change (study 1), transformation of insides (study 2), acquired traits (study 3) and inferences about offspring (study 4)—we find support for the view that essences are elaborated by a telos. And we find evidence (study 5) that teleological essences may generate category judgments. (shrink)
Using the language of common-sense psychology, we explain human behavior by citing its reason or purpose, and this is central to our understanding of human beings as agents. On the other hand, since human beings are physical objects, human behavior should also be explicable in the language of physical science, in which causal accounts cast human beings as collections of physical particles. CSP talk of mind and agency, however, does not seem to mesh well with the language of physical science.In (...) Teleological Realism, Scott Sehon argues that CSP explanations are not causal but teleological -- that they cite the purpose or goal of the behavior in question rather than an antecedent state that caused the behavior. CSP explanations of behavior, Sehon claims, are answering a question different from that answered by physical science explanations, and, accordingly, CSP explanations and physical science explanations are independent of one another. Common-sense facts about mind and agency can thus be independent of the physical facts about human beings, and, contrary to the views of most philosophers of mind in recent decades, common-sense psychology will not be subsumed by physical science.Sehon defends his non-reductionist account of mind and agency in clear and nontechnical language. He carefully distinguishes his view from forms of "strong naturalism" that would seem to preclude it. And he evaluates key objections to teleological realism, including those posed by Donald Davidson's influential article "Actions, Reasons and Causes" and some put forth by more recent proponents of causal theories of action. CSP, Sehon argues, has a different realm than does physical science; the normative notions that are central to CSP are not reducible to physical facts and laws. (shrink)
This paper gives an account of evolutionary explanations in biology. Briefly, the explanations I am primarily concerned with are explanations of adaptations. These explanations are contrasted with other nonteleological evolutionary explanations. The distinction is made by distinguishing the different kinds of questions these different explanations serve to answer. The sense in which explanations of adaptations are teleological is spelled out.
Constitutivists seek to locate the metaphysical foundations of ethics in nonnormative facts about what is constitutive of agency. For most constitutivists, this involves grounding authoritative norms in the teleological structure of agency. Despite a recent surge in interest, the philosophical move at the heart of this sort of constitutivism remains underdeveloped. Some constitutivists—Foot, Thomson, and Korsgaard (at least in her recent *Self-Constitution*)—adopt a broadly Aristotelian approach. They claim that the functional nature of agency grounds normative judgments about agents in much (...) the same way that the functional natures of artifacts and bodily organs ground normative judgments about those kinds of things. I argue that the neo-Aristotelian conclusions about goodness which follow so straightforwardly from teleological premises are not genuinely normative. Functions are not by their very nature normatively significant. Other constitutivists—notably J. David Velleman and Paul Katsafanas—eschew Aristotelian talk of functions in favor of an approach based on the idea that agency has a constitutive aim. Velleman and Katsafanas both claim that aims are normatively significant. I argue that the fact that agency has a constitutive aim is merely a fact about the motives that produce and regulate actions. And so we are still left with a gap between the teleological and the normative. I conclude by suggesting that constitutivists have failed to find a way to bridge this gap not because none exists, but rather because they have been looking in the wrong place. The constitutivist project can be salvaged, but only if it is supplemented with a reductive metanormative account of reasons for action, an account that links reasons to sound or successful practical reasoning. (shrink)
Neo-teleology is the two part thesis that, e.g., (i) we have hearts because of what hearts are for: Hearts are for blood circulation, not the production of a pulse, so hearts are there--animals have them--because their function is to circulate the blood, and (ii) that (i) is explained by natural selection: traits spread through populations because of their functions. This paper attacks this popular doctrine. The presence of a biological trait or structure is not explained by appeal to its (...) function. To suppose otherwise is to trivialize natural selection. (shrink)
It is now generally understood that constraints play an important role in commonsense moral thinking and generally accepted that they cannot be accommodated by ordinary, traditional consequentialism. Some have seen this as the most conclusive evidence that consequentialism is hopelessly wrong,1 while others have seen it as the most conclusive evidence that moral common sense is hopelessly paradoxical.2 Fortunately, or so it is widely thought, in the last twenty-five years a new research program, that of Agent-Relative Teleology, has come (...) to the rescue on all sides. While consequentialism says that every agent ought always to do that action that will bring about the most good, according to Agent- Relative Teleology. (shrink)
Monte Johnson examines one of the most controversial aspects of Aristiotle's natural philosophy: his teleology. Is teleology about causation or explanation? Does it exclude or obviate mechanism, determinism, or materialism? Is it focused on the good of individual organisms, or is god or man the ultimate end of all processes and entities? Is teleology restricted to living things, or does it apply to the cosmos as a whole? Does it identify objectively existent causes in the world, or (...) is it merely a heuristic for our understanding of other causal processes? Johnson argues that Aristotle's aporetic approach drives a middle course between these traditional oppositions, and avoids the dilemma, frequently urged against teleology, between backwards causation and anthropomorphism. Although these issues have been debated with extraordinary depth by Aristotle scholars, and touched upon by many in the wider philosophical and scientific community as well, there has been no comprehensive historical treatment of the issue. Aristotle is commonly considered the inventor of teleology, although the precise term originated in the eighteenth century. But if teleology means the use of ends and goals in natural science, then Aristotle was rather a critical innovator of teleological explanation. Teleological notions were widespread among his predecessors, but Aristotle rejected their conception of extrinsic causes such as mind or god as the primary causes for natural things. Aristotle's radical alternative was to assert nature itself as an internal principle of change and an end, and his teleological explanations focus on the intrinsic ends of natural substances - those ends that benefit the natural thing itself. Aristotle's use of ends was subsequently conflated with incompatible 'teleological' notions, including proofs for the existence of a providential or designer god, vitalism and animism, opposition to mechanism and non-teleological causation, and anthropocentrism. Johnson addresses these misconceptions through an elaboration of Aristotle's methodological statements, as well as an examination of the explanations actually offered in the scientific works. Reviewed in: Notre Dame Philosophical Review 2006.06.15; Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.08.37; Il-Sole – 24 Ore 6 Aug. 2006; Philosophy in Review 26 (2006): 360-2; Rhizai 3 (2006): 171-8; Journal of the History of Philosophy 45 (2007): 323-4; Ancient Philosophy 27 (2007): 191-200; Phronesis 52 (2007): 248-9; Isis 98 (2007): 375; Aestimatio 4 (2007) 146-152; The British Journal for the History of Science 41 (2008): 129-130. The European Legacy 14 (2009); La Cultura 47 (2009): 174-175; Sean M. Row, Teleology in Political Contexts: an assessment of Monte Ransome Johnson’s “Aristotle on Teleology”. (A thesis presented to the faculty of the college of arts and sciences of Ohio University, 2009.). (shrink)
Ernest Nagel, one of the world's leading philosophers of science, is an unreconstructed empirical rationalist who continues to believe that the logical methods of the modern natural sciences are the most successful instruments men have devised to acquire reliable knowledge. This book presents "Teleology Revisited"-the John Dewey lectures delivered at Columbia University- and eleven of Nagel's articles on the philosophy of science.
Teleological terms such as "function" and "design" appear frequently in the biological sciences. Examples of teleological claims include: A (biological) function of stotting by antelopes is to communicate to predators that they have been detected. Eagles' wings are (naturally) designed for soaring. Teleological notions were commonly associated with the pre-Darwinian view that the biological realm provides evidence of conscious design by a supernatural creator. Even after creationist viewpoints were rejected by most biologists there remained various grounds for concern about the (...) role of teleology in biology, including whether such terms are: 1. vitalistic (positing some special "life-force"); 2. requiring backwards causation (because future outcomes explain present traits); 3. incompatible with mechanistic explanation (because of 1 and 2); 4. mentalistic (attributing the action of mind where there is none); 5. empirically untestable (for all the above reasons). Opinions divide over whether Darwin's theory of evolution provides a means of eliminating teleology from biology, or whether it provides a naturalistic account of the role of teleological notions in the science. Many contemporary biologists and philosophers of biology believe that teleological notions are a distinctive and ineliminable feature of biological explanations but that it is possible to provide a naturalistic account of their role that avoids the concerns above. Terminological issues sometimes serve to obscure some widely-accepted distinctions. (shrink)
I argue for a teleological account of events in progress. Details aside, the proposal is that events in progress are teleological processes. It follows from this proposal that final causes are ubiquitous: anything happening at any time is an event with a telos.
This work is an examination of teleological attributions i.e. ascriptions of proper functions and natural ends) to the features and behavior of living things with a view to understanding their application to human life.
-/- Some phenomena within nature exhibit such exquisiteness of structure, function or interconnectedness that many people have found it natural—if not inescapable—to see a deliberative and directive mind behind those phenomena. The mind in question, being prior to nature itself, is typically taken to be supernatural. Philosophically inclined thinkers have both historically and at present labored to shape the relevant intuition into a more formal, logically rigorous inference. The resultant theistic arguments, in their various logical forms, share a focus on (...) plan, purpose, intention and design, and are thus classified as teleological arguments (or, frequently, as arguments from or to design). -/- Although enjoying some prominent defenders over the centuries, such arguments have also attracted serious criticisms from a number of major historical and contemporary thinkers. Both critics and advocates are found not only among philosophers, but come from scientific and other disciplines as well. In the following discussion, major variant forms of teleological arguments will be distinguished and explored, traditional philosophical and other criticisms will be discussed, and the most prominent contemporary turns (cosmic fine tuning arguments, many-worlds theories, and the present Intelligent Design debate) will be tracked. Discussion will conclude with a brief look at one historically important non-inferential approach to the issue. (shrink)
I focus here on the teleological suspension of the ethical as it appears in Fear and Trembling. A common reading of Fear and Trembling is that it explores whether there are religious reasons for action that settle that one must do an action even when all the moral reasons for action tell against doing it. This interpretation has been contested. But I defend it by showing how the explicit teleological suspension of the ethical mirrors implicit teleological suspensions of the epistemological (...) and prudential, and by articulating how it might be necessary for God to suspend the ethical in order to forgive us for our wrongdoings to others. I also discuss whether God’s commands are implicitly conditional, whether religious reasons to act, believe, and forgive are in each case grounded in divine commands, and what role love plays in each type of teleological suspension. (shrink)
When do the folk think that mereological composition occurs? Many metaphysicians have wanted a view of composition that fits with folk intuitions, and yet there has been little agreement about what the folk intuit. We aim to put the tools of experimental philosophy to constructive use. Our studies suggest that folk mereology is teleological: people tend to intuit that composition occurs when the result serves a purpose. We thus conclude that metaphysicians should dismiss folk intuitions, as tied into a benighted (...) teleological view of nature. (shrink)
This paper argues that biological organisation can be legitimately conceived of as an intrinsically teleological causal regime. The core of the argument consists in establishing a connection between organisation and teleology through the concept of self-determination: biological organisation determines itself in the sense that the effects of its activity contribute to determine its own conditions of existence. We suggest that not any kind of circular regime realises self-determination, which should be specifically understood as self-constraint: in biological systems, in particular, (...) self-constraint takes the form of closure, i.e. a network of mutually dependent constitutive constraints. We then explore the occurrence of intrinsic teleology in the biological domain and beyond. On the one hand, the organisational account might possibly concede that supra-organismal biological systems could realise closure, and hence be teleological. On the other hand, the realisation of closure beyond the biological realm appears to be highly unlikely. In turn, the occurrence of simpler forms of self-determination remains a controversial issue, in particular with respect to the case of self-organising dissipative systems. (shrink)
Teleological theories of content are thought to suffer from two related difficulties. According to the problem of indeterminacy, biological function is indeterminate in the sense that, in the case of two competing interpretations of the function of an evolved mechanism, there is often no fact of the matter capable of determining which function is the correct one. Therefore, any attempts to construct content out of biological function entail the indeterminacy of content. According to the problem of transparency, statements of biological (...) function are transparent in that a statement of the form 'the function of evolved mechanism M is to represent Fs' can be substituted salva veritate by a statement of the form 'the function of evolved mechanism M is to represent Gs' provided that the statement 'F iff G' is counterfactual supporting. Therefore, any attempt to construct content out of biological function must fail to capture the intensionality of psychological ascriptions. This paper argues that the teleological account is undermined by neither of these problems. Failure to appreciate this point stems from a conflation of two types of proper function - organismic and algorithmic - possessed by an evolved mechanism. These functions underwrite attributions of content to distinct objects. The algorithmic proper function of a mechanism underwrites attributions of content to the mechanism itself, while the organismic proper function of a mechanism underwrites attribution of content to the organism that possesses the mechanism. However the problems of indeterminacy and transparency arise only if the attributions of content attach to the same object. (shrink)
In empirically informed research on action explanation, philosophers and developmental psychologists have recently proposed a teleological account of the way in which we make sense of people’s intentional behavior. It holds that we typically don’t explain an agent’s action by appealing to her mental states but by referring to the objective, publically accessible facts of the world that count in favor of performing the action so as to achieve a certain goal. Advocates of the teleological account claim that this strategy (...) is our main way of understanding people’s actions. I argue that common motivations mentioned to support the teleological account are insufficient to sustain its generalization from children to adults. Moreover, social psychological studies, combined with theoretical considerations, suggest that we do not explain actions mainly by invoking publically accessible, reason-giving facts alone but by ascribing mental states to the agent. (shrink)
Most interpreters think that for Leibniz, teleology is goodness-directedness. Explaining a monadic action teleologically, according to them, simply means explaining it in terms of the goodness of the state at which the agent aims. On some interpretations, the goodness at issue is always apparent goodness: an action is end-directed iff it aims at what appears good to the agent. On other interpretations, the goodness at issue is only sometimes apparent goodness and at other times merely objective goodness: some actions (...) do not aim at what appears good to the agent, but merely at what is objectively good—that is, at what God knows to be good—and that is sufficient for teleology. My paper, on the other hand, argues that both of these interpretations are mistaken. Monadic teleology, I contend, does not have to consist in striving for the good; neither goodness nor God is required to make monadic actions teleological. (shrink)
Consequentialism is an agent-neutral teleological theory, and deontology is an agent-relative non-teleological theory. I argue that a certain hybrid of the two—namely, non-egoistic agent-relative teleological ethics (NATE)—is quite promising. This hybrid takes what is best from both consequentialism and deontology while leaving behind the problems associated with each. Like consequentialism and unlike deontology, NATE can accommodate the compelling idea that it is always permissible to bring about the best available state of affairs. Yet unlike consequentialism and like deontology, NATE accords (...) well with our commonsense moral intuitions. (shrink)
Research has found that children possess a broad bias in favor of teleological - or purpose-based - explanations of natural phenomena. The current two experiments explored whether adults implicitly possess a similar bias. In Study 1, undergraduates judged a series of statements as "good" or "bad" explanations for why different phenomena occur. Judgments occurred in one of three conditions: fast speeded, moderately speeded, or unspeeded. Participants in speeded conditions judged significantly more scientifically unwarranted teleological explanations as correct, but were not (...) more error-prone on control items. Study 2 extended these findings by examining the relationship between different aspects of adults’ "promiscuous teleology" and other variables such as scientific knowledge, religious beliefs, and inhibitory control. Implications of these findings for scientific literacy are discussed. (shrink)
The notions of purpose, goal, end and function are used in descriptions of a very wide range of human, animal and machine behaviour. Andrew Woodfield provides here a unified account of such teleological descriptions and explanations, their varieties, their logical structure and their proper uses. He concentrates his argument on the concepts of 'goal-directed behaviour' and 'natural function', and combines original philosophical criticism with a meticulous, detailed survey of the main competing theories in this diffuse and difficult field.
According to a widely held view of the matter, whenever we assess beliefs as ‘rational’ or ‘justified’, we are making normative judgements about those beliefs. In this discussion, I shall simply assume, for the sake of argument, that this view is correct. My goal here is to explore a particular approach to understanding the basic principles that explain which of these normative judgements are true. Specifically, this approach is based on the assumption that all such normative principles are grounded in (...) facts about values, and the normative principles that apply to beliefs in particular are grounded in facts about alethic value––a kind of value that is exemplified by believing what is true and not believing what is false. In this chapter, I shall explain what I regard as the best way of interpreting this approach. In doing so, I shall also show how this interpretation can solve some problems that have recently been raised for approaches of this kind by Selim Berker, Jennifer Carr, Michael Caie, and Hilary Greaves. (shrink)
We argue that claims of racial progress rest upon untenable teleological assumptions founded in Enlightenment discourse. We examine the theoretical and methodological focus on progress and its historical roots. We argue research should examine the concrete mechanisms that produce racial stability and change, and we offer three alternative frameworks for interpreting longitudinal racial data and phenomena. The first sees racism as a “fundamental cause,” arguing that race remains a “master category” of social differentiation. The second builds on Glenn’s “settler colonialism (...) as structure” framework to describe race relations as a mutually constituted and place-based system of resource allocation. The third framework draws attention to racialized agency. (shrink)
This volume draws together Allan Gotthelf's pioneering work on Aristotle's biology. He examines Aristotle's natural teleology, the axiomatic structure of biological explanation, and the reliance on scientifically organized data in the three great works with which Aristotle laid the foundations of biological science.
Argumentation schemes are forms of reasoning that are fallible but correctable within a self-correcting framework. Their use provides a basis for taking rational action or for reasonably accepting a conclusion as a tentative hypothesis, but they are not deductively valid. We argue that teleological reasoning can provide the basis for justifying the use of argument schemes both in monological and dialogical reasoning. We consider how such a teleological justification, besides being inspired by the aim of directing a bounded cognizer to (...) true belief and correct choices, needs to take into account the attitudes of dialogue partners as well as normative models of dialogue and communicative activity types, in particular social and cultural settings. (shrink)
In Aristotle's teleological view of the world, natural things come to be and are present for the sake of some function or end. Whereas much of recent scholarship has focused on uncovering the physical underpinnings of Aristotle's teleology and its contrasts with his notions of chance and necessity, this book examines Aristotle's use of the theory of natural teleology in producing explanations of natural phenomena. Close analyses of Aristotle's natural treatises and his Posterior Analytics show what methods are (...) used for the discovery of functions or ends that figure in teleological explanations, how these explanations are structured, and how well they work in making sense of phenomena. The book will be valuable for all who are interested in Aristotle's natural science, his philosophy of science, and his biology. (shrink)
Teleology in biology is making headline news in the United States. Conservative Christians are utilizing a teleological argument for the existence of a supremely intelligent designer to justify legislation calling for the teaching of "intelligent design" (ID) in public schools. Teleological arguments of one form or another have been around since Antiquity. The contemporary argument from intelligent design varies little from William Paley's argument written in 1802. Both argue that nature exhibits too much complexity to be explained by 'mindless' (...) natural forces alone. We need to postulate the existence of an intelligent designer, a creator with forethought and purpose. The inference to an intelligent creator harkens back to Plato’s teleological argument for the order of the cosmos. Plato’s demiurge is a creator that imposes order on the cosmos. Yet, as we shall see when we analyze the distinctly biological form of the more contemporary teleological arguments we will find remanants of Aristotle’s distinctive argument from functional arrangement, but without his distinctive form of telos which is unconscious and immanent rather than intelligent and creative from on high. The aim of this article is to survey various teleological arguments since Antiquity. Since a variant on Paley's argument—ID—is getting so much recent press I will start with a discussion on the nature of Paley’s teleology. (shrink)
I analyze a tension at the core of the mechanistic view of computation generated by its joint commitment to the medium independence of computational vehicles and to computational systems possessing teleological functions to compute. While computation is individuated in medium-independent terms, teleology is sensitive to the constitutive physical properties of vehicles. This tension spells trouble for the mechanistic view, suggesting that there can be no teleological functions to compute. I argue that, once considerations about the relevant function-bestowing factors for (...) computational systems are brought to bear, the tension dissolves: physical systems can have the teleological function to compute. (shrink)
It is typically thought that some epistemic states are valuable—knowing, truly or accurately believing, understanding. These are states it’s thought good to be in and it’s also said that we aim or want to be in them. It is then sometimes claimed that these sorts of thoughts about epistemic goods or values ground or explain our epistemic norms. For instance, we think subjects should follow their evidence when they form their beliefs. But why should they? Why not believe against the (...) evidence or ignore it completely in deciding what to believe? Here’s a compelling sort of answer: because epistemic subjects are or ought to be trying to know more and following their evidence is a means to that end or to fulfilling that obligation. In this paper I argue that this compelling thought cannot be right. Subjects who are trying to know more will regularly fail to conform to some of our most familiar epistemic norms. (shrink)
Following Chalmers, I take the most promising response to the meta-problem to be a realizationist one on which (roughly) consciousness plays a role in realizing the processes that explain why we think that there is a hard problem of consciousness. I favour an interactionist dualist version of realizationism on which experiences are non-physical states that non-redundantly cause problem judgments. This view is subject to the challenges of specifying laws that would enable experiences to cause problem judgments and of explaining why (...) it's not a lucky coincidence that experiences' causal and rational powers converge on problem judgments. I propose a strategy for solving the meta-problem and meeting these challenges. According to it, a fundamental teleological law operates on normative features of experiences in ways that bias experiences towards causing effects that they rationalize, including problem judgments. I conclude by applying the strategy to other luck-avoidance challenges. (shrink)
It is through our actions that we affect the way the world goes. Whenever we face a choice of what to do, we also face a choice of which of various possible worlds to actualize. Moreover, whenever we act intentionally, we act with the aim of making the world go a certain way. It is only natural, then, to suppose that an agent's reasons for action are a function of her reasons for preferring some of these possible worlds to others, (...) such that what she has most reason to do is to bring about the possible world which, of all those available to her, is the one that she has most reason to want to obtain. This is what is known as the `teleological conception of practical reasons'. Whether this is the correct conception of practical reasons is important not only in its own right, but also in virtue of its potential implications for what sort of moral theory we should accept. Below, I argue that the teleological conception is indeed the correct conception of practical reasons. (shrink)