, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 355–358 | Cite as

Clever evolution

Samir Okasha: Agents and goals in evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, xiv + 254pp, £30.00 HB
  • Daniel C. DennettEmail author
Why and when did “teleology” become a dirty word in biology? I call it a dirty word because many think it refers to some forbidden practice which should not even be discussed, and by making the practice unmentionable, this opinion prevents us from examining it calmly and carefully to see whether or not it is as horrible as it is cracked up to be. Marx’s famous verdict about Origin of Species is ambiguous:

Not only is a death blow dealt here for the first time to ‘Teleology’ in the natural sciences but their rational meaning is empirically explained. (1861)

Does Darwinian evolutionary explanation banish all or vindicate some teleological thinking? In From Bacteria to Bach and Back I raised this question and went on to observe:

It is of course open to defend an intermediate position that forbids certain teleological excesses but licenses more staid and circumscribed varieties of talk about functions, and philosophers have devised a variety of such views. My informal sense is that many...



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyTufts UniversityMedfordUSA

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