Freedom and purpose in biology.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

All seemingly teleological systems share a common hierarchical structure. They consist of a small entity moving or changing within a larger field that directs it from above (what I call "upper direction"). This is true for organisms seeking some external resource, for the organized behavior of cells and other parts in organismal development, and for lineages evolving by natural selection. In all cases, the lower-level entity is partly "free," tending to wander under the influence of purely local forces, and partly directed by a larger enveloping field. The persistent and plastic behavior that characterizes goal-directedness arises, I argue, at intermediate levels of freedom and upper direction, when the two are in a delicate balance. I tentatively extend the argument to human teleology (wants, purposes).

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • McShea, DW

Published Date

  • August 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 58 /

Start / End Page

  • 64 - 72

PubMed ID

  • 26777154

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1879-2499

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1369-8486

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.shpsc.2015.12.002


  • eng