Upper-directed systems: A new approach to teleology in biology

Journal Article (Journal Article)

How shall we understand apparently teleological systems? What explains their persistence (returning to past trajectories following errors) and their plasticity (finding the same trajectory from different starting points)? Here I argue that all seemingly goal-directed systems-e. g., a food-seeking organism, human-made devices like thermostats and torpedoes, biological development, human goal seeking, and the evolutionary process itself-share a common organization. Specifically, they consist of an entity that moves within a larger containing structure, one that directs its behavior in a general way without precisely determining it. If so, then teleology lies within the domain of the theory of compositional hierarchies. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • McShea, DW

Published Date

  • September 1, 2012

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 27 / 5

Start / End Page

  • 663 - 684

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1572-8404

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0169-3867

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s10539-012-9326-2

Citation Source

  • Scopus