The Effects of Aristotelian Teleological Thought on Darwin's Mechanistic Views of Evolution

The Effects of Aristotelian Teleological Thought on Darwin's Mechanistic Views of Evolution

Length: 2373 words (6.8 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

The Effects of Aristotelian Teleological Thought on Darwin's Mechanistic Views of Evolution

     The need to understand organisms has been a much sought goal of
science since its birth as biology. History shows Aristotle and Charles Darwin
as two of the most powerful biologists of all time. Aristotle's teleological
method was supported widely for over 2,000 years. One scientist remarks that
the Aristotelian teleology "has been the ghost, the unexplained mystery which
has haunted biology through its whole history" (Ayala, 10). If Aristotle's
approach has frightened biology, then Darwin, who actually nicknamed himself
the "Devils Chaplain," and his idea of natural selection has virtually dissected
Aristotle's ghost. While Aristotle explained biology through a plan and a
purpose, Darwin debated that randomness and chaos are responsible for the
organic world as we know it. Guiseppe Montalenti, an Italian geneticist and
philosopher of biology, wrote that Darwin's ideas were a rebellion against
thought in the Aristotelian-scholastic way (Ayala, 4). In order to
understand how Darwinism can be considered a revolt against Aristotle, we must
first inspect Aristotle's ideas and thoughts about biology.
Aristotle used teleology to explain the harmony and final results of the
earth. Teleology is the study of the purpose of nature. Aristotle believed
that scientists should follow the plan adopted by mathematicians in their
demonstrations of astronomy, and after weighing the phenomena presented by
animals, and their several parts, follow consequently to understand the causes
and the end results. Using this method, Aristotle constructed causes for body
parts and processes of the human body, such as sundry types of teeth.
Aristotle elucidated on this topic: "When we have ascertained the thing's
existence we inquire as to its nature…when we know the fact we ask the reason"
(Evans, 82).
     Despite Aristotle's frequent teleological explanations, he did warn
against teleology leading to misinterpretations of facts. In a short writing on
the reproduction of bees in Generation of Animals, Aristotle was troubled that
there were insufficient observations on the subject, and warns that his theory
is dependent on facts supporting the theory. One twentieth century biologist...

... middle of paper ...

... to describe evolution
teleologically. This proof, of course, is not possible, as evolution through
natural selection cannot be described as goal-oriented since it happens due to
previous events or transformations, not in anticipation of coming events. If we
were goal-oriented, natural selection would not be supple enough to be useful in
rapidly changing environments (Mayr, 43).


Aristotle. The Works of Aristotle, Encyclopedia Britannica. New York, 1952

Ayala, F.J. and Tobzharsky, T. Studies in the Philosophy of Biology.
University of California Press. Berkeley and Los Angeles. 1974.

Burrow, John. Editor introduction to Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species
Penguin books. England, 1968.

Evans, G. The Physical Philosophy of Aristotle. University of New Mexico
Press. Albuquerque, 1964.

Kirk, G., Raven, J. and Schofield, M. The Presocratic Philosophers. Cambridge
University Press. Cambridge. 1983.

Mayr, Ernst. Toward a New Philosophy of Biology. Harvard University Press.

Moore, Ruth. Evolution. Time-life books. Alexandria, Virginia. 1980.

Simpson, George The Meaning of Evolution. Yale University Press. New Haven
and London. 1949.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on Aristotelian Political Thought Bridges Ethical Philosophy

- Aristotelian political thought bridges ethical philosophy (Nicomachean Ethics) with political structure (The Politics). That is, Aristotle argues, the complete attainment of ethical values, moral virtues, is the ultimate end of the individual, giving purpose and fulfillment to human life (human telos). Therefore, he asserts, political structure should be constructed in a fashion which best cultivates those virtues. Though the goal of the state is to instill virtue into civilization, there is ambiguity as to assessing the virtuosity of the state; generally, few are able to attain eudaimonia, whereas, many are able to achieve only a degree of virtue, but not complete eudaimonia....   [tags: Ethics, Virtue ethics, Aristotle, United States]

Powerful Essays
802 words (2.3 pages)

Aristotelian Physics On Modern Science Essay

- Humans have always been naturally curious. Why are we here. How did life start. What happened at the beginning of time. How does everything work. These are seminal questions that plagued our ancestors and currently plague us. Answering seemingly impossible questions is the role of science, specifically physics, in humanity. At the forefront of the quest to understand everything was Aristotelian physics. While in the future Aristotelian physics would turn out to be completely incorrect, his original ideas and theories were critical for developing modern science as we know it today....   [tags: Scientific method, Science, Theory, Physics]

Powerful Essays
1318 words (3.8 pages)

A Semi Mechanistic Bone Remodeling Theory Essay

- 2.1 A semi-mechanistic bone remodeling theory As opposed to soft biological tissues, which can experience both appositional and interstitial growth, hard biological tissue can experience just appositional growth because of the nonexpendable nature of the bone matrix [16, 17, 2829]. The proposed regulatory process of spongy bone remodeling, as proposed by Huiskes et al. [1920], can be seen in Fig. 1. Bone remodeling is depicted as a coupled process of bone resorption and bone formation on the bone free surface....   [tags: Bone, Skeletal system, Osseous tissue]

Powerful Essays
1157 words (3.3 pages)

Essay on Platonic And Aristotelian Epistemology : Comparison And Contrast

- Platonic and Aristotelian Epistemology: Comparison and Contrast As teacher and student, both Plato and Aristotle believed that knowledge is possible and therefore attainable. They agreed that the mind connects the soul and the body, containing within it the key to understanding what it means to exist in this world and how our existences are interrelated. In other words, what is a man and what does it mean to know. For Plato, knowledge must consist of what is genuinely real and not appearance only; it must be acquired through thoughts and ideas....   [tags: Plato, Aristotle, Logic, Epistemology]

Powerful Essays
1213 words (3.5 pages)

The Thought Behind The Indigenous Education Essay

- After the discussion in class about the thought behind the indigenous education, I began to think about how much it differs from the way education is today based on all the views of education that we have previously learned about. We have talked about how in authoritarian classrooms there is a clear hierarchy and the education is distributed based on their place in society. The capitalist philosophy highlights how the business world has begun to heavily influence what is taught and how children are taught in order to fit into the already established systems in the world....   [tags: Culture, Education, Thought, Teacher]

Powerful Essays
1341 words (3.8 pages)

Elements of Aristotelian Tragedy Depicted in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

- An Aristotelian tragedy includes many different characteristics. It is a cause-and-effect chain and it contains the elements of catharsis, which is pity and fear, and hamartia, which is the tragic flaw embedded in the main characters. The famous play Romeo and Juliet, written by William Shakespeare, is about two lovers of two different families who hate each other and the misdemeanors they have to surpass. Many debate on whether it is an Aristotelian tragedy or simply tragic. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet should be regarded as an Aristotelian tragedy because catharsis is exhibited in the play, Juliet’s blindness of love is shown, and Romeo’s impetuousness is the tragic flaw that leads to hi...   [tags: romeo and juliet]

Powerful Essays
1671 words (4.8 pages)

The Two Perceptions of Computer Use in Architecture Essay

- This paper reviews the two perceptions of computer in architecture. Some criticize computer use because computers—by their nature mechanistic and algorithmic—support only uncreative thinking and production. However, some increasingly view computers as valuable tools of creative production. Educational research indicates that there is no single "effect" of the computer on creativity; technology can support either uncreative drill or creative production. In recent years, contemporary architecture has been changed by the evolution of digital technologies not only as production process and design techniques but also as the way of thinking....   [tags: promote creativity, algorithmic, mechanistic]

Powerful Essays
1120 words (3.2 pages)

Essay about Aristotelian Philosophy and Plays

- Aristotelian Philosophy and Plays According to Aristotelian philosophy a tragedy is a compressed development of a single plot. Aristotle's principles have been derived from Greek mythology. He studied their plays, which had been enacted and hence laid down a set of rules. All playwrights and authors have followed his rules for centuries his rules have been considered a guide to a well-written tragedy. Aristotle states that for a play to be a tragedy the play should consist of a genre and generic attributes....   [tags: Philosophy Plays Shakesepare Aristotle Essays]

Powerful Essays
1773 words (5.1 pages)

Aristotelian Tragedy Essay

- Aristotelian Tragedy One may argue that the Greek playwright, Sophocles modeled his play Oedipus Rex on Aristotle's definition and analysis of tragedy. Since according to Aristotle's definition, a tragedy is an imitation of action that is serious, complete and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished artistic ornaments, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not narrative with incidents that evokes pity and fear of a persons emotions. Also Aristotle identified the basic six parts a tragedy as being plot, character, thought, melody, diction and spectacle which he considered the least important....   [tags: Papers]

Powerful Essays
587 words (1.7 pages)

Aristotelian Essay

- Can a Child be Virtuous. In this paper I will argue against Aristotle and his idea that children cannot be virtuous, as we discussed in class. I will do this by giving concrete examples that a certain widespread religion believes in this virtuosity of a child. I will also use a more common example that occurs all the time in America. Aristotle says that children cannot be virtuous because virtues are something that, to be acquired must be practiced over and over again. A child has not had enough practice, time or understanding of what he is doing to be considered virtuous....   [tags: essays research papers]

Free Essays
887 words (2.5 pages)