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Aristotle on Teleology$
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Monte Ransome Johnson

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199285303

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2006

DOI: 10.1093/0199285306.001.0001

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Teleology and Humans

Teleology and Humans

(p.211) 8 Teleology and Humans
Aristotle on Teleology

Monte Ransome Johnson

Oxford University Press

Humans are capable of intentionally pursuing goals that they consciously set for themselves, and thus a different order of teleology applies to them, one which places them in the domain of ethics and politics. Every inquiry, art, and science has a goal, and they can broadly be classified into the productive-practical on the one hand, and the theoretical, on the other. Practical knowledge aims at practical goods by grasping causes for the sake of producing effects, while theoretical knowledge aims at grasping causes for the sake of knowledge itself, an intrinsic good. The ultimate good for a human can be identified by a process of elimination: whatever is the highest good for another kind of organism cannot be the unique good for this kind of thing, and so the end of human life cannot be nutrition, reproduction, growth, perception or pleasure, for these are the proper goods of other kinds of organisms. This leaves knowledge, in particular theoretical knowledge. It is argued that Aristotelian teleology cannot be anthropocentric, or else it would be impossible to identify the unique human good by elimination, and the activity of the final good for humans (contemplation and knowledge of causes) would have no real object.

Keywords:   anthropology, humans, intentionality, art, science, anthropocentrism, animals, plants, environment, politics

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