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Author: Boris Hennig

The distinction between teleology and teleonomy that biologists sometimes refer to seems to be helpful in certain contexts, but it is used in several different ways and has rarely been clearly drawn. This paper discusses three prominent uses of the term “teleonomy” and traces its history back to what seems to be its first use. This use is examined in detail and then justified and refined on the basis of elements found in the philosophy of Aristotle, Kant, Anscombe and others. In the course of this explication, it will also be shown how the description of end-directed processes relates to their explanation.

Die Unterscheidung zwischen Teleonomie und Teleologie, auf die Biologen manchmal verweisen, scheint für manche Zwecke hilfreich zu sein. Sie wird jedoch nicht in einheitlicher Weise verwendet und nur selten klar bestimmt. Der Beitrag untersucht drei prominente Gebrauchsweisen des Begriffs „Teleonomie“ und verfolgt seine Geschichte bis zu der Verwendung, die die erste zu sein scheint. Diese wird im Detail analysiert und unter Rückgriff auf Aristoteles, Kant, Anscombe und andere verteidigt und ergänzt. Im Zuge dieser Begriffsklärung wird außerdem gezeigt, wie sich die Beschreibung zielgerichteter Vorgänge zu ihrer Erklärung verhält.

In: History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis
In: Final Causes and Teleological Explanation
In: Geschichte der Bioethik
In: Lebensform und Praxisform
Author: Boris Hennig


On the one hand, Aristotle claims that the matter of a material thing is not part of its form. On the other hand, he suggests that the proper account of a natural thing must include a specification of the kind of matter in which it is realized. There are three possible strategies for dealing with this apparent tension. First, there may be two kinds of definition, so that the definition of the form of a thing does not include any specification of its matter, whereas the definition of a compound does. Second, the definition of a substance may not include a specification of its matter at all, but still reveal in what kinds of matter its form can be realized. Third, there may be a special kind of matter, functional matter, which belongs to the form of certain things. I will show that the functional matter of a thing does not belong to its form (in a strict sense of “form”), but that an adequate account of natural substances and their functions must nonetheless involve a reference to their functional matter. This means that the function of a natural thing is not the same as its form and that its adequate account as a natural thing is not a definition (in a strict sense of “form” and “definition”).

In: History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis