What? Philosophy 3991G: Purpose, Design, and Final Causes in Nature, a course that investigates the concept of teleology (telos meaning end or goal, and logos meaning account or explanation) and its application to various metaphysical and epistemological debates in philosophy.
When? Winter 2016, W 1:30-2:30, F 1:30-3:30
Why? The concept of teleology has fuelled many great metaphysical debates. Minimally, to describe something in “teleological” terms is to assert that it exists for some end and that an adequate explanation of it must make reference to that end. For example, when we say that a spider builds its web in order to catch flies we assume that the goal of catching flies is important for explaining the spider’s behaviour. But is the tendency to see the natural world in teleological terms an artifact of human thought or are some natural phenomena genuinely goal-directed? Does teleology require an Intelligent Designer or is there a way of understanding final causes in non-intentional terms? This course traces arguments for and against teleology from antiquity to the present with the aim of answering these, and other, questions. Some of the key figures studied include: Plato, Aristotle, the Epicureans, Descartes, Kant, Robert Boyle, Darwin, and Richard Dawkins.