The Limits of Teleology

  • Crystal Thorpe
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 110)


The teleological thesis says that an essential feature of intentional action is that it is goal-directed or teleological. To say that a person’s action is goal-directed or teleological is to say that a person performs that action in order to promote some goal, end or desire. The Humeans accept the teleological thesis, as do some rationalists. My aim is to cast doubt on this thesis. More than two decades ago, Michael Stocker argued that teleological considerations are inappropriate for understanding acting out of or from character. Here, I deepen Stocker’s original insight by isolating another class of actions, in addition to those done out of or from character, that are intentional yet not teleological. I focus on intentional deliberative action, that is, action that is guided by reasoning, reflection and careful consideration. Intentional deliberative action differs from action done out of character in that it is deliberative. I demonstrate that a species of intentional deliberative action – what I call value-driven action – is not teleological.


Goal-directed action Hume Intentional action Moral reasoning Teleological 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

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  • Crystal Thorpe

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