NEW PAPER (2023), A. Nahas, C.B. Sachs: What’s at stake in the debate over naturalizing teleology? An overlooked metatheoretical debate

Published open access in Synthese

Abstract. Recent accounts of teleological naturalism hold that organisms are intrinsically goaldirected entities. We argue that supporters and critics of this view have ignored the ways in which it is used to address quite different problems. One problem is about biology and concerns whether an organism-centered account of teleological ascriptions would improve our descriptions and explanations of biological phenomena. This is different from the philosophical problem of how naturalized teleology would affect our conception of nature, and of ourselves as natural beings. The neglect of this metatheoretic distinction has made it difficult to understand the criteria we should use for evaluating proposals to naturalize teleology. We argue that a clearer distinction between scientific and philosophical contexts shows that we need more than one set of criteria for evaluating proposals to naturalize teleology, and that taking these into account might advance or dissolve recurring debates in the literature.