Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 489–492 | Cite as

Darwin's language may seem teleological, but his thinking is another matter

  • Michael T. Ghiselin


Darwin's biology was “teleological” only if the term “teleology” is defined in a manner that fails to recognize his contribution to the metaphysics and epistemology of modern science. His use of teleological metaphors in a strictly teleonomic context is irrelevant to the meaning of his discourse. The myth of Darwin's alleged teleology is partly due to misinterpretations of discussions about whether morphology should be a purely formal science. Merely rejecting such notions as special creation and vitalism does not prevent the pernicious effects of teleological reasoning, even at the present time.

Key words

Darwin teleology teleonomy function morphology anatomy epistemology metaphor 


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  3. James, G. Lennox: 1992, ‘Teleology’, in Evelyn Fox Keller and Elisabeth A. Lloyd, editors,Keywords in Evolutionary Biology. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 323–333.Google Scholar
  4. Richard Owen: 1860,Palæontology or a Systematic Survey of Extinct Animals and their Geological Relations. Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael T. Ghiselin
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for the History and Philosophy of ScienceCalifornia Academy of SciencesSan FranciscoUSA

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