CFP: Teleology for the 21st Century (Synthese)

Submission deadline: May 15, 2022

Topic areas


Teleology used to be one of the central topics in metaphysics from antiquity until well into the 19th century, but it is rarely discussed today. This lacuna is unfortunate, because the nature of goal-directedness has important implications in debates about biological functions, human and AI agency, naturalism, the philosophy of social science, the philosophy of mind, and experimental philosophy. We are looking for innovative papers that shed light on what teleology is, either from a general metaphysical standpoint or in connection with some specific debate.

Appropriate topics for this topical collection of Synthese include, but are not limited to:

● The role of teleology in folk intuitions and their relevance in metaphysics (see e.g. Rose & Schaffer 2017).

● New approaches to teleology in the philosophy of biology (for one possible approach, see Moreno & Mossio 2015).

● Concepts of teleology that go beyond the philosophy of biology and relate to issues in, or re-structure debates within, the philosophy of action, social ontology, or the philosophy of mind (see e.g. Garson and Papineau 2019, Miller 2004, Robinson 2021).

● (Misconceptions about) the teleological character of the Principle of Least Action in physics (see e.g. Ben-Menahem 2018: ch. 6, Stölzner 1994).

● The relevance of teleology within Neo‑Aristotelian metaphysics (see e.g. Page 2021, Paolini Paoletti 2021).

● Teleological conceptions of agency and their impact on issues like responsibility and compatibilism (see e.g. Sehon 2016).

● Goal-directedness and AI (see e.g. Popa 2021).

● Teleology in the philosophy of history (see e.g. Schumann 2019).

● The role of teleology in the explanatory practices of the natural vs the social sciences.

● Which strands of naturalism can be reconciled with (which types of) teleological explanations, and how?

The deadline for submissions is 15 May 2022.

Guest Editors: Daniel Kodaj (Eötvös Loránd University), László Bernáth (Eötvös Loránd Research Network & Eötvös Loránd University), Martin Pickup (University of Birmingham)

For further information, please contact the lead guest editor at [email protected].

Submissions via:


Ben-Menahem, Y. (2018): Causation in Science. Princeton University Press.

Garson, J and D. Papineau (2019): Teleosemantics, selection and novel contents.

Miller, S. (2004): Social Action: A Teleological Account. Cambridge University Press.

Moreno, A. and M. Mossio (2015): Biological Autonomy. Springer.

Page, B. (2021): Power-ing up Neo-Aristotelian natural goodness.

Paolini Paoletti, M. (2021): Teleological powers.

Popa, E. (2021). Human goals are constitutive of agency in artificial intelligence.

Robinson, H. (2021): Aristotelian dualism, good; Aristotelian hylomorphism, bad.

Rose, D. and J. Schaffer (2017): Folk mereology is teleological.

Schumann, G. (ed.) (2019): Explanation in Action Theory and Historiography: Causal and Teleological Approaches. Routledge.

Sehon, S. (2016): Free Will and Action Explanation. Oxford University Press.

Stölzner, M (1994): Action principles and teleology.

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