A Useful Inheritance: Evolutionary Aspects of the Theory of Knowledge

By Nicholas Rescher | Go to book overview

SEVEN

Does A Darwinian Account of the
Origin of Mind Preclude
Intentionality and Purpose?

SYNOPSIS

(1) It is sometimes said that a Darwinian evolutionary account of the origins of mind leaves no room for meaning and purpose in the domain of human doings and dealings. (2) Such an objection fails to heed the necessary distinction between the issues of causal origination and hermeneutical explanation of human phenomena. Natural selection can and does account causally for how being with certain capacities can arise and how they operate in the exercise of these capacities; but it does not and cannot provide an account of what exercising these capacities is like from an experiential perspective. And intentionally (purposiveness, meaning, valuation, and the like) is part of this internalized, experiential perspective, and cannot be properly comprehended from an external, causal point of departure. (3) But incompleteness is one thing and defectiveness quite another. Different questions are at issue. Evolutionary epistemology cannot fairly be faulted on a charge of incapacity because it does not treat matters that lie outside its sphere—issues it makes no pretense to address at all. Nor, of course, can it conflict with such matters, let alone exclude them.


(1) Does Evolution Eradicate Purpose?

Philosophers and scientists sometimes maintain that a Darwinian evolutionary account of the origin of mind and its operations is bound to be deficient because it leaves no room

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