Purposiveness in Nature

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Early on in the Physics, Aristotle uses language to explain chance and spontaneity and the roles they play in nature. He feels that since chance and spontaneity are posterior to mind and nature, they will never be as important as actual causes as they are as hints that nature has purpose. Aristotle only entertains Empedocles’ proto-Darwinian theory because his philosophical method is based on systematically analyzing the views of other philosophers. He eventually rejects Empedocles’ view because it relies on chance as the driving force, and Aristotle believes that nothing based on chance can thrive in a world that has purpose. He replaces the theories of philosophers like Empedocles and other Pre-Socratic materialists with the idea that nature, like art, has purpose. Aristotle sets out with the question of what force was driving nature and answered with the idea of purposiveness. Darwin’s theory of natural selection and evolution both partially undermined his answer, but neither of them have really answered his question. He may have been immoderately concerned with finding purposiveness in nature and he may have used a faulty tool to do so, but Aristotle’s fundamental question has yet to be answered. Until we can fully answer his question, we can not completely dismiss Aristotle’s arguments.

Chance is when a choice yields a result that is different from the usual or expected result. Spontaneity is simply any occurrence that happens outside of the usual pattern. Chance requires reasoning and choice, while spontaneity does not. For this reason, spontaneity can be applied to a wider range of occurrences like the actions of babies, inanimate objects, animals, etc. All that happens by chance happens spontaneously, but not all that h...

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...ot completely have to abandon purposiveness. Modern scientists can offer many different levels of material existence, but all of them can still be called into question. The theory of natural selection relies on DNA. Some suggest DNA as the driving force of life forms, but what causes DNA to form as it does? If molecules are the fundamental unit then where did they get their form? Proper questioning would show the limit of strictly material explanations. There is a something that could answer these questions, but we have yet to find it. This was Aristotle’s chief concern. Christians credit it to God, Muslims to Allah, scientists grudgingly acknowledge that they do not know and are still searching, and philosophers still grapple with it to this day. Aristotle will remain relevant until one of these groups-maybe all of them working together- can answer his question.
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