Consequence etiology and biological teleology in Aristotle and Darwin

  • Depew D
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Abstract

Aristotle's biological teleology is rooted in an epigenetic account of reproduction. As such, it is best interpreted by consequence etiology. I support this claim by citing the capacity of consequence etiology's key distinctions to explain Aristotle's opposition to Empedocles. There are implications for the relation between ancient and modern biology. The analysis reveals that in an important respect Darwin's account of adaptation is closer to Aristotle's than to Empedocles's. They both rely on consequence etiological considerations to evade attributing the purposiveness of organisms to chance. Two implications follow: (l) Darwinian explanations of adaptation are as teleological as Aristotle's, albeit differently; and (2) these differences show how deeply resistant Aristotle's version of biological teleology is to descent from a common ancestor. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Aristotle
  • Charles Darwin
  • Consequence etiology
  • Empedocles
  • Epigenesis
  • Teleology

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Authors

  • David J. Depew

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