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James G. Lennox “Darwin Was a Teleologist”

Lennox, James G. 1993. Darwin Was a Teleologist. Biology and Philosophy 8: 409-421.

The conclusion that Darwin was not a teleologist follows inexorably from two premises: (i) The only “non-trivial” teleological explanations are those which appeal to divine design or an internal vital force; (ii) Darwinian selection explanations appeal to neither. (410)

Selection explanations are inherently teleological, in the sense that a value consequence (Darwin most often uses the term ‘advantage’) of a trait explains its increase, or presence, in a population. (410)

[…] Darwin essentially re-invented teleology. Encouraged by many close followers to drop the term ‘natural selection’, Darwin steadfastly refused. He saw, better than his followers, that it could not easily be dropped. In the context of viewing variation as the provision of a random set of alternatives, a mechanism for selecting among them is crucial. The concept of selection permits the extension of the teleology of domestic breeding into the natural domain, without the need of conscious design. As in domestic selection, the good served by a variation continues to be causally relevant to its increasing frequency, or continued presence, in a population – but the causal mechanism, and the locus of goodness, shifts. (417)

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