Biological Teleology in Contemporary Science Essay

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Biological Teleology in Contemporary Science

Continuous controversies about how Aristotle's teleological biology relates to modern biological science address some widely debated questions in contemporary philosophy of science. Three main groups of objections made by contemporary science against Aristotle's biology can be identified: 1) Aristotle's biological teleology is too anthropomorphic; 2) the idea is tied too substance based; 3) Aristotle's final ends contradict the mechanistic spirit of modern science, which is looking for physical causes. There are two ways of dealing with these objections. The first consists in showing misinterpretations of Aristotle's thought that underlie these arguments. A second line of defense explores the
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Yet the controversies about how Aristotle's ideas relate to modern biological science continue to raise some interesting and widely debated questions. From philosophical point of view, the objections that contemporary science can make against Aristotle's biology and that are encountered, in one form or another, in the literature, can be identified in three groups (without pretending to completeness). First, Aristotle's biological teleology is considered anthropomorphic in the sense that his description of nature is essentially based on the analogy with the work of a rational artist; moreover, he goes too far in this analogy, ascribing to nature cosmic goals. Second, the idea of fixed, unchangeable biological kinds is incompatible with modern evolutionary oriented biology. Third, Aristotle's final ends contradict the mechanistic spirit of modern science, which is looking only for the physical causes.

There are two ways of dealing with these objections. The first one consists in showing the many misinterpretations of Aristotle's thought that underlie some of the arguments, thus making the point that these arguments criticize Aristotle for beliefs that he had never held. The second way of dealing with the above objections explores the idea that teleological concepts are not only incorporated and widely used in contemporary science, but that in fact biology does not have to renounce teleology (as far as it is properly understood) in order to reconcile

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