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Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 409–421 | Cite as

Darwin was a teleologist

  • James G. Lennox
Article

Abstract

It is often claimed that one of Darwin's chief accomplishments was to provide biology with a non-teleological explanation of adaptation. A number of Darwin's closest associates, however, and Darwin himself, did not see it that way. In order to assess whether Darwin's version of evolutionary theory does or does not employ teleological explanation, two of his botanical studies are examined. The result of this examination is that Darwin sees selection explanations of adaptations as teleological explanations. The confusion in the nineteenth century about Darwin's attitude to teleology is argued to be a result of Darwin's teleological explanations not conforming to either of the dominant philosophical justifications of teleology at that time. Darwin's explanatory practices conform well, however, to recent defenses of the teleological character of selection explanations.

Key words

Adaptation Darwin final cause natural selection plant sexuality teleology 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • James G. Lennox
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of History and Philosophy of Science 1017 Cathedral of LearningUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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