Teleology in self-organizing systems


Book Section

Teleological language, talk of function and purpose, has long been associated with the appearance of order in the biological world. Indeed, the pre-Darwinian tradition of natural theology (e.g., Paley 1836) gave a clear underpinning for such teleology. The order of nature was a product of Gods design and reflected his purposes. In this post-Darwinian era neural selection has taken the place of Gods purposes in supporting teleological ascriptions -the ultimate purpose or function of some biological trait, say a wing, is just that effect acted on by natural selection to produce, by evolution, the order of the trait in question. But the recent recognition that order can emerge just from the dynamics of complex systems -no natural selection is needed -leads us to the question of this paper; namely, in what ways, and to what extent, does teleological language properly apply to the selfgenerated order of complex dynamical systems in biology?© 2006 Springer. Printed in the Netherlands.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Brandon, RN

Published Date

  • December 1, 2006

Book Title

  • Self-Organization and Emergence in Life Sciences

Start / End Page

  • 267 - 281

International Standard Book Number 10 (ISBN-10)

  • 1402039166

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9781402039164

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/1-4020-3917-4_16

Citation Source

  • Scopus