chapter  1
14 Pages

Exploring the Post-Darwinian Naturalist Landscape


Once upon a time, Aristotelean teleologists studied the natural world, both organic and inorganic, with the goal of revealing the divinely imposed ultimate purpose of things. Things have changed. Galileo’s mathematization of physics removed Aristotelean fi nal causes from the inorganic part of the natural world: that is a settled matter. Darwin then completed this revolution in the sciences by extending it to the organic part of the natural world. But there is considerable room for disagreement, even among naturalists, about just what the terms of the cease-fi re were at the cessation of that revolutionary confl ict. What is the relationship between Darwin’s contributions to natural science and the prospects for purposes or reasons in the organic sphere? Some twenty-fi rst-century naturalists believe that Darwin removed fi nal causes from the organic part of the natural world. For these thinkers, quite literally, there really is no purpose to life. But some post-Darwinian naturalists think Darwin actually made biology a kind of safe haven for teleological theorizing. These thinkers tend to cast such claims in epistemological as opposed to metaphysical terms, so there are by no means neoAristoteleans; but by the same token, they certainly do think that the study of living things is different in kind, and not just degree from the study of nonliving things. This collection of essays explores the possibilities for novel approaches to the study of metaphysics, epistemology, rationality, and the human mind in a post-Darwinian intellectual landscape.