Document Type



Philosophy (CMC)

Publication Date



Kant’s position on teleology and biology is neither inconsistent nor obsolete; his arguments have some surprising and enduring philosophical strengths. But Kant’s account will appear weak if we muddy the waters by reading him as aiming to defend teleology by appealing to considerations popular in contemporary philosophy. Kant argues for very different conclusions: we can neither know teleological judgments of living beings to be true, nor legitimately explain living beings in teleological terms; such teleological judgment is justified only as a “problematic” guideline in our search for mechanistic explanations. These conclusions are well supported by Kant’s defense of his demanding analysis, according to which teleological judgment literally applies to a complex whole only where teleology truly explains the presence of its parts.


Please note that this article is also available through the Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie at

Rights Information

© 2005 Walter de Gruyter

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Included in

Philosophy Commons