chapter  2
31 Pages

Life and Teleology

ByMark Okrent

This chapter describes living organism's interactions with its environment in the language of agents and agency, and this description carries a raft of other problematic descriptions in its wake. It offers a description in which a single unified entity, the 'organism', is described as doing things. It is claimed that the concept organism is sense dependent on the concept self-maintenance, and that the concept self-maintenance is sense dependent on the concept appropriately describable in teleological terms. Teleological explanations of the behavior of organisms and the structure and behavior of their functional parts are normative explanations. The relation between evolutionary explanations and teleological explanations is not nearly so straightforward and these complications are important for a proper understanding of the naturalistic status of norms. Natural individuals whose behavior can be described and explained in teleological terms, that is, living things, come to be through an evolutionary process that is fueled by natural selection.