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Why The Idea Of Purpose Won't Go Away

Abstract
Abstract

Biologists' current habit of explaining each feature of human life separately through its evolutionary function – its assumed tendency to enhance each individual's reproductive prospects – is unworkable. It also sits oddly with these scientists' official rejection of teleology, since it treats all life as a process which does have an aim, namely, to perpetuate itself. But that aim is empty because it is circular.

If we want to understand the behaviour of living things (including humans) we have to treat them seriously as subjects, creatures with needs, tendencies and directions of their own. The supposedly objective idea of a world of objects without subjects is an unprofitable fantasy.

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dr.mary.midgley@googlemail.com
References
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1 November 15, 2010, G2 Section

2 Gazzaniga Michael, Human; The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique. (New York, Ecco, 2008), 107–9.

3 Absence of Mind; The Dispelling Of Inwardness From The Modern Myth Of The Self. (Yale University Press, 2010), 45–6 (Emphasis Mine).

4 Philosophical Investigations part I, section 23, G.E.M.Anscombe's translation

5 New York, W.W.Norton & Co 2004, 32.

6 The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (Princeton University Press 1981), chapter III.

7 ‘Super-evolution; change for the common good' in New Scientist, Oct. 9th 2010.

8 (Harvard, Belknap Press, 1975).

9 See ‘The Evolution of Eusociality' by Martin A.Novak, Corina E.Tarnita and Edward O.Wilson in Nature for August 26 2010.

10 See ‘Why Richard Dawkins is Wrong About Religion', in The Edge Of Reason, (ed.) Bentley Alex, (Continuum Press, 2008).

11 In The Ant And The Peacock; Altruism and Sexual Selection From Darwin To Today, (Cambridge University Press, 1991).

12 The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford University Press 1986), 677. NB the final footnote.

13 River Out Of Eden; A Darwinian View Of Life (London, Phoenix, 1995), 155.

14 Autobiographies of Thomas Henry Huxley and Charles Darwin (Oxford Universiy Press, 1974), 54 (Emphasis mine).

15 Nagel Thomas, The View From Nowhere, (Oxford University Press, 1989).

16 The Goldilocks Enigma; Why Is The Universe Just Right For Life? (London, Allen Lane, 2006), 302–3.

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Philosophy
  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
  • URL: /core/journals/philosophy
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