Understanding Aristotle's Teleology

Allan Gotthelf

in Teleology, First Principles, and Scientific Method in Aristotle's Biology

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199287956
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191738296 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Aristotle Studies Series

Understanding Aristotle's Teleology

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This chapter identifies three categories of questions answers to which are required if one is to have a full understanding of Aristotle's teleology: Analysis, Basis, Extent. It then focuses on the ‘Basis’ questions and presents a typology of recent interpretations of the ontological basis of Aristotelian natural teleology, which it labels (i) Strong irreducibility (e.g., Gotthelf); (ii) Regulative/pragmatic (e.g., Nussbaum and Sorabji); (iii) limited irreducibility (e.g., Charles); (iv) weak irreduciblilty (e.g., M. Bradie and F.D. Miller, Jr.); (v) intrinsic cause/eliminativism (e.g., S. S. Meyer). Views (iv) and (v) are assessed at some length. Meyer, it is argued, confuses Aristotle's grounds for rejecting his opponents’ view (eliminativism) with what he takes to be the basis of his own view (anti‐reductionism). In addressing view (v) it is it is proposed that, in the face of contemporary science, Aristotle would have retreated to something like the contemporary etiological view of biological teleology.

Keywords: Aristotle; teleology; irreducibility; eliminativism; D. Charles; S. S. Meyer; F. D. Miller, Jr; M. Bradie

Chapter.  12037 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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