Aristotle's teleological nature

Bolotin, David. “The Question of Teleology.” In An Approach to Aristotle’s Physics. State University of New York Press, 1997.

Bolotin’s “The Question of Teleology” opens with the observation that modern philosophy and science have not so much proven the non-existence of teleology in nature as they have simply ignored it. There is an irony involved in modern science’s denial of teleology in nature, which we do observe, all the while formulating its laws in terms of mathematical idealizations which have “no immediate basis in experience and with no evident connection to the ultimate causes of the natural world.” What is more, the inherently provisional nature of science, according to which it “cannot claim, and it will never be able to claim, that it has the definitive understanding of any natural phenomenon,” means that it cannot ever rule out the possibility of purposes of nature. The heart of Bolotin’s argument, however, is his claim that Aristotle’s theory of the purposiveness in nature presupposes the prior existence of intelligent forethought in nature. Bolotin shows that the purposiveness of nature cannot be reduced to chance, for Aristotle’s definition of chance already presupposes his account of nature, including its purposiveness. Chance, therefore, presupposes and is derivative of a purposeful nature, and the notion of a purposeful nature presupposes the notion of intelligence or mind. The final page gives a good summary of the dependence of Aristotle’s notion of chance on his notion of a purposeful nature, and the dependence of his notion of a purposeful nature on a notion of a divine, ordering intelligence.

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