Teleology – which some might define as “the (allegedly) goal-directed behavior of natural beings” – is in fact a family of different kinds of takes on explaining natural phenomena. It rarely receives the patient and open-minded treatment it deserves. But I’m happy to report an exception – this article, by Stephen T. Asma, which defends a plausible view of the importance of teleology in explaining biological phenomena, and “why there will never be a Newton of biology”. Relevant excerpt:
Aboutness in nature doesn’t need to be superadded. It’s already everywhere, but our mechanical paradigm of nature and our Cartesian biases oblige us to ignore it. Goal directed behavior is not just in neo-cortical representational consciousness, but in subcortical SEEKING systems and nonrepresentational latent action patterns. Philosophers like Nagel and Arnold think we don’t have meaning without reasons, but we do. We have intentionality in high degrees, even before we have language. Not only is the body intentionally oriented to other bodies, but many of our own mental events are also prelinguistic projects.