Toward a Biology Worthy of Life > How Biologists Lost Sight of the Meaning of Life > Brief excerpt
A project by Stephen L. Talbott

A reversal of the explanatory burden

Both in ourselves and in other organisms we find (in a reversal of the mechanistic view) that causes do not so much explain the organism as they stand in need of explaining by the organism.

It is by seeing how the organism is pursuing its own telos (ends) that we begin to understand its way of continually re-shaping causal relations to its own purposes. We certainly must elucidate the moment-by-moment causes and effects, but this is only so that, by recognizing the patterned shifting of causal relations, we can glimpse the meanings, intentional and otherwise, of the organism as a whole. By analogy: in watching a person’s physical movements and activities, we can get an idea of the intentions giving rise to those activities.

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