The distinction between 'mechanical' and 'teleological' has been familiar since Kant; between a fully mechanistic, quantitative science of Nature and a teleological, qualitative approach to living beings, namely 'organisms' understood as purposive or at least functional entities. The beauty of this distinction is that it apparently makes intuitive sense and maps onto historico-conceptual constellations in the life sciences, regarding the status of the body versus that of the machine. I argue that the mechanism-teleology distinction is imprecise and flawed using examples including the 'functional' features present even in Cartesian physiology, the Oxford Physiologists' work on circulation and respiration, the fact that the model of the 'body-machine' is not a mechanistic reduction of organismic properties to basic physical properties but is focused on the uniqueness of organic life; and the concept of 'animal economy' in vitalist medicine, which I present as a 'teleomechanistic' concept of organism (borrowing a term of Lenoir's which he applied to nineteenth-century embryology)--neither mechanical nor teleological.

The distinction between ‘mechanical’ and ‘teleological’ has been familiar since Kant; between a fully mechanistic, quantitative science of Nature and a teleological, qualitative approach to living beings, namely ‘organisms’ understood as purposive or at least functional entities. The beauty of this distinction is that it apparently makes intuitive sense and maps onto historico-conceptual constellations in the life sciences, regarding the status of the body versus that of the machine. I argue that the mechanism-teleology distinction is imprecise and flawed using examples including the ‘functional’ features present even in Cartesian physiology, the Oxford Physiologists’ work on circulation and respiration, the fact that the model of the ‘body-machine’ is not a mechanistic reduction of organismic properties to basic physical properties but is focused on the uniqueness of organic life; and the concept of ‘animal economy’ in vitalist medicine, which I present as a ‘teleomechanistic’ concept of organism (borrowing a term of Lenoir’s which he applied to nineteenth-century embryology) – neither mechanical nor teleological.

Teleomechanism redux? Functional physiology and hybrid models of life in early modern natural philosophy

Wolfe, Charles T
2014

Abstract

The distinction between 'mechanical' and 'teleological' has been familiar since Kant; between a fully mechanistic, quantitative science of Nature and a teleological, qualitative approach to living beings, namely 'organisms' understood as purposive or at least functional entities. The beauty of this distinction is that it apparently makes intuitive sense and maps onto historico-conceptual constellations in the life sciences, regarding the status of the body versus that of the machine. I argue that the mechanism-teleology distinction is imprecise and flawed using examples including the 'functional' features present even in Cartesian physiology, the Oxford Physiologists' work on circulation and respiration, the fact that the model of the 'body-machine' is not a mechanistic reduction of organismic properties to basic physical properties but is focused on the uniqueness of organic life; and the concept of 'animal economy' in vitalist medicine, which I present as a 'teleomechanistic' concept of organism (borrowing a term of Lenoir's which he applied to nineteenth-century embryology)--neither mechanical nor teleological.
71
File in questo prodotto:
File Dimensione Formato  
cw Teleomechanism Gesnerus 2014.pdf

accesso aperto

Tipologia: Versione dell'editore
Licenza: Accesso gratuito (solo visione)
Dimensione 739.63 kB
Formato Adobe PDF
739.63 kB Adobe PDF Visualizza/Apri

I documenti in ARCA sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10278/3719566
Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? 1
  • Scopus 4
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? 2
social impact