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WHAT IS NATURAL? NEW THOUGHTS DAVID B. HAUSMAN* In a recent article in thisjournal [1], I attempted to uncover the origin and possible meanings of the concept of"the natural," especially as it has influenced our understanding of such notions as "health" and "ill health" in medicine. The purpose ofthis note is to expand my account of "the natural," for, as I have recently discovered, there is a class of related uses which I all but ignored in my earlier paper. The uses to which I refer cluster around the various attempts to provide an analysis of ideological behavior, either goal directed or functional , in a way consistent with the tenets of contemporary empirical science (For a review of some of the more important positions, see [2].) Briefly, the major questions at issue seem to come to these: (a) Are there systems in which the aggregate of laws (or causal connections) operating for these systems are distinguishable from the aggregate of laws operating for systems in general such that those and only those systems exhibit goal-directed or functional behavior? (¿>) If there are such systems, what are the essential characteristics of these aggregates of laws by which the systems are distinguished? And (c), is there anything about any of the laws taken individually which marks them off as characteristically teleological ? Now if the answer to a is that there are such systems, there are still several alternatives. One could maintain that there are no characteristically ideological laws, so that teleological systems are really nothing more than systems in which the aggregates are of ordinary (nonteleological ) laws. That is, while the aggregates may be special, the individual laws are not. A familiar example is the attempt by Rosenblueth, Wiener, and Bigelow [3] to analyze goal-directed behavior in terms of negative feedback loops. Or one may argue that these aggregates must include some characteristically teleological laws. Finally, the position may be taken that such systems must include only characteristically teleological laws. ?Associate professor of philosophy, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas 75275. 1 am grateful to the university for granting me a research leave to work on this and other projects.© 1978 by The University of Chicago. 0031-5982/78/2103-0060$01.00 Perspectives in Biology and Medicine ¦ Spring 1978 \ 441 Taylor, in his enormously interesting Explanation ofBehavior [4], takes this very last position. Taylor observes that teleological behavior is behavior which occurs because of what results from it; it occurs for the sake of the state of affairs which follows: Now when we say that an event occurs for the sake ofan end, we are saying that it occurs because it is the type of event which brings about this end. This means that the condition of the event's occurring is that a state of affairs obtain such that it will bring about the end in question, or such that this event is required to bring about that end. To offer a teleological explanation of some event or class of events ... is then to account for it by laws in terms ofwhich an event's occurring is held to be dependent on that event's being required for some end. [4, p. 9] We can schematize Taylor's account as follows (This is a modification of Wright's schematization in [5]: "B occurs for the sake of G" means (a) B is required for G to obtain; (b) B's being required for G is lawfully sufficient for B to occur. Taylor's denial is explicit that, where this account holds as a true explanation ofteleological behavior, there can be a standard account in terms of state and environmental variables: Thus the claim that "the purposes" of a system are of such and such a kind affects the laws which hold at the most basic level. In other words, it is incompatible with the view that the natural tendency towards a certain condition can itself be accounted for by other laws. Thus the function of an explanation invoking powers or natural tendencies can be precisely to shut off further inquiry . And this is why it is absurd when it is taken as an attempt to state some antecedent. For...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 441-444
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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