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Teleology, First Principles, and Scientific Method in Aristotle's Biology$
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Allan Gotthelf

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199287956

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199287956.001.0001

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Understanding Aristotle's Teleology

Understanding Aristotle's Teleology

(p.67) 3 Understanding Aristotle's Teleology
Teleology, First Principles, and Scientific Method in Aristotle's Biology

Allan Gotthelf

Oxford University Press

This chapter identifies three categories of questions answers to which are required if one is to have a full understanding of Aristotle's teleology: Analysis, Basis, Extent. It then focuses on the ‘Basis’ questions and presents a typology of recent interpretations of the ontological basis of Aristotelian natural teleology, which it labels (i) Strong irreducibility (e.g., Gotthelf); (ii) Regulative/pragmatic (e.g., Nussbaum and Sorabji); (iii) limited irreducibility (e.g., Charles); (iv) weak irreduciblilty (e.g., M. Bradie and F.D. Miller, Jr.); (v) intrinsic cause/eliminativism (e.g., S. S. Meyer). Views (iv) and (v) are assessed at some length. Meyer, it is argued, confuses Aristotle's grounds for rejecting his opponents’ view (eliminativism) with what he takes to be the basis of his own view (anti‐reductionism). In addressing view (v) it is it is proposed that, in the face of contemporary science, Aristotle would have retreated to something like the contemporary etiological view of biological teleology.

Keywords:   Aristotle, teleology, irreducibility, eliminativism, D. Charles, S. S. Meyer, F. D. Miller, Jr, M. Bradie

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