Minds and Machines

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 559-585

First online:

Teleology as Higher-Order Causation: A Situation-Theoretic Account

  • Robert C. KoonsAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Situation theory, as developed by Barwise and his collaborators, is used to demonstrate the possibility of defining teleology (and related notions, like that of proper or biological function) in terms of higher order causation, along the lines suggested by Taylor and Wright. This definition avoids the excessive narrowness that results from trying to define teleology in terms of evolutionary history or the effects of natural selection. By legitimating the concept of teleology, this definition also provides promising new avenues for solving long standing problems in the philosophy of mind, such as the problems of intentionality and mental causation.

teleology causation biological function proper function mental causation situation theory