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Teleology and function in non-living nature

Babcock, Gunnar (2023) Teleology and function in non-living nature. [Preprint]

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There’s a general assumption that teleology and function do not exist in inanimate nature. Throughout biology, it is generally taken as granted that teleology (or teleonomy) and functions are not only unique to life, but perhaps even a defining quality of life. For many, it’s obvious that rocks, water, and the like, are not teleological, nor could they possibly have stand-alone functions. This idea - that teleology and function are unique to life - is the target of this paper. I begin with an overview of McShea’s field theoretic account of teleology. I start with the field theoretic account because it presents a promising analysis of teleological systems. It is promising because, in not making any assumptions about life’s special status in teleological systems, it avoids counterexamples that have problematized other accounts. I then consider some of the prominent efforts that some have made to attempt to avoid ascribing functions or teleology to some form of inanimate nature. In my assessment, none of the efforts are successful. I conclude by offering mineral evolution as a case study to show how inanimate nature can be both teleological and functional. The evolution of mineral species reveals that teleology and function extend to inanimate nature, and that teleology and function come in degrees.

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Item Type: Preprint
Keywords: teleology function life minerals goal directedness
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Function/Teleology
Depositing User: Dr. Gunnar Babcock
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2023 14:30
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2023 14:30
Item ID: 21757
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Function/Teleology
Date: 2023

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