Teleology beyond explanation

Mind and Language 38 (1):20-41 (2021)
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People often think of objects teleologically. For instance, we might understand a hammer in terms of its purpose of driving in nails. But how should we understand teleological thinking in the first place? This paper separates mere teleology (simply ascribing a telos) and teleological explanation (thinking something is explained by its telos) by examining cases where an object was designed for one purpose but is now widely used for a different purpose. Across four experiments, we show that teleology judgments and teleological explanation judgments are dissociable, and identify three factors that influenced teleology judgments (and one that did not).

Author Profiles

Sehrang Joo
Yale University
Joshua Knobe
Yale University


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