Fabrizio Calzavarini

Meccanicism and living organism in Driesch, von Bertalanffy, Maturana and Varela

  • Abstract

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Keywords: Teleology; Vitalism; Organicism; Autopoiesis.

It is a central claim in contemporary biology that, contrary to Kant's claims in the "Critique of Teleological Judgment", the study of living organisms does not need the notion of purposiveness or teleology. After the work of Darwin, biological facts can be explained as the results of natural selection which "post factum" gives the semblance of a project. According to a minority of contemporary philosophers, this solution of the Kant's «Antinomy of the Teleological Judgment» is inadequate. Darwin has solved the problem of «external» teleology (the apparent «purposedirected » structures of living organisms). Nonetheless, his solution is not adequate for Kant's most important insight - i.e. the problem of «internal» teleology and the notion of living organisms as «natural scopes». Starting from these considerations, we will analyse three important phases in the development of the biological antireductionism in the 20th Century (Driesch's vitalism, Bertalanffy's organicism, and Maturana and Varela's theory of autopoiesis), in order to find a different solution to the problem of biological teleology. As we shall see, these theories take the notion of living organism, as construed as «natural purpose» in Kantian terms, as the principal target of investigation, suggesting a basic and radical revision of our understanding of teleology in biological sciences.

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