Teleological Explanation

Teleological Explanation - Teleological Explanation...

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Teleological Explanation Swinburne's personal explanation (explanation in terms of the purposes, beliefs and powers of an agent) is a special case of teleological explanation , explanation in terms of the purposes for which things exist. If an agent acts purposefully, then his actions and their intended results are purposive, occur for a purpose. What is it for something to occur for a purpose? In the last thirty years considerable work has been done on this problem by analytic philosophers, beginning with the work of Charles Taylor and Larry Wright in the 60's and 70's. The Taylor/Wright account of teleological explanation is known as the aetiological or causal account of teleology. I will give my own version of this account, one that takes seriously the distinction between tokens and types that I have insisted on before. First, at the level of types, I will say that type A occurs in context C for purpose B if and only if, whenever a token of type occurs, it is most probably caused, in part, by the fact that A - tokens tend to cause B -tokens. This definition brings a causal relation in twice: first, by specifying that tokens of type tend to be caused in a certain way, and second, by including the fact that A -tokens tend to cause B -tokens within the first causal connection. A few examples may help to make the sense of the definition clearer. The purpose of saying 'please pass the sugar' is the actual passing of the sugar to the speaker. In the context of polite, English-speaking company, uttering these words does tend to cause a sugar-passing event. The fact that this is so is part of the cause of most utterances of these words. If uttering these words did not tend to cause the sugar to be passed, we would not utter them nearly so often. Similarly, the purpose of working in a coal mine, in the context of 19th century capitalist Britain, was to earn enough money to live. Working in the mine did tend to cause this result, and it is because it tended to do so that so many workers went into the mine on a daily basis. Finally, the wings of a sparrow have as their purpose the sustaining of flight. The wings tend to have this result, and the fact that they do so is part of the explanation of why sparrows have wings. Natural selection has stabilized the gene pool of the sparrows to a wing-producing state because these wings contribute causally to flight. At the level of tokens, we need the following definition. A token t of type A -in-the-context-of- C has the non-accidental purpose of B if and only if (i) A in the context of C has the purpose B , and (ii) t was caused in part, and in the usual way, by the fact that A -events tend to cause B - events. A token of type A -in- C is very probably, but not always, a token with B as its non- accidental purpose For instance, (assuming Darwinism is true) the wings of the very first flying bird did not have flight as their non-accidental purpose. In that case, the wings were the product of an accidental mutation, and their contribution to the power to flight did not have any causal
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Teleological Explanation - Teleological Explanation...

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