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Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie

Ed. by Horn, Christoph / Serck-Hanssen, Camilla

Together with Mercer, Christia

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The Inexplicability of Kant’s Naturzweck: Kant on Teleology, Explanation and Biology

James Kreines

Citation Information: Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie. Volume 87, Issue 3, Pages 270–311, ISSN (Online) 1613-0650, ISSN (Print) 0003-9101, DOI: 10.1515/agph.2005.87.3.270, November 2005

Publication History

Published Online:
2005-11-15

Abstract

Kant’s position on teleology and biology is neither inconsistent nor obsolete; his arguments have some surprising and enduring philosophical strengths. But Kant’s account will appear weak if we muddy the waters by reading him as aiming to defend teleology by appealing to considerations popular in contemporary philosophy. Kant argues for very different conclusions: we can neither know teleological judgments of living beings to be true, nor legitimately explain living beings in teleological terms; such teleological judgment is justified only as a “problematic” guideline in our search for mechanistic explanations. These conclusions are well supported by Kant’s defense of his demanding analysis, according to which teleological judgment literally applies to a complex whole only where teleology truly explains the presence of its parts.

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