Is intuitive teleological reasoning promiscuous?

In William Gibson, Dan O'Brien & Marius Turda (eds.), Teleology and Modernity. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 185-202 (2019)
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Humans have a tendency to reason teleologically. This tendency is more pronounced under time pressure, in people with little formal schooling and in patients with Alzheimer’s. This has led some cognitive scientists of religion, notably Kelemen, to call intuitive teleological reasoning promiscuous, by which they mean teleology is applied to domains where it is unwarranted. We examine these claims using Kant’s idea of the transcendental illusion in the first Critique and his views on the regulative function of teleological reasoning in the third Critique. We examine whether a Kantian framework can help resolve the tension between the apparent promiscuity of intuitive teleology and its role in human reasoning about biological organisms and natural kinds.

Author Profiles

Johan De Smedt
Saint Louis University
Helen De Cruz
Saint Louis University


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