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An Epicurean Argument Against Teleology

[In the earth’s infancy] the earth tried to create many monsters with weird appearance and anatomy – androgynous, some footless, or handless; many even without mouths, or without eyes and blind; some with their limbs stuck together all along their body, and thus disabled from doing anything or going anywhere, from avoiding harm or obtaining anything they needed. These and other such monsters the earth created. But to no avail, since nature prohibited their development. They were unable to reach the goal of maturity, to find sustenance, or to copulate. For we see that creatures need the concurrence of many things in order to be able to produce and spread their progeny... Those which nature did not endow with any advantages, and which were thus unable either to live on their own resources or to perform some service to us in return for which we might allow their species to feed under our protection and be safe, these presumably lay as the prey and pickings of other creatures, all of them hampered by their fateful handicaps, until nature reduced their kind to extinction. (Lucretius De Rerum Natura, V, 837-877)

Q1: In what sense is this story anti-teleological?

Q2: What phenomenon is Lucretius (presumably) trying to explain?

Q3: Lucretius suggests that there are two different ways for a species to survive. What are they?

Q4: A teleologist like Aristotle would not accept that “the earth tried to create monsters with weird appearances and anatomy” – at least, not monsters like those described by Lucretius. What reasons would Aristotle give for rejecting this claim?

closed as off-topic by Geremia, Keelan Dec 13 '16 at 15:49

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    These are really well-formed questions (and probably part of a hw assignment for that reason). Can you show at least some prior attempt before someone gives you a hand? – virmaior Dec 11 '16 at 5:26
  • Q2 & Q3: it is a sort of pre-darwinian Survival of the fittest : " Those which nature did not endow with any advantages, and which were thus unable either (1) to live on their own resources or (2) to perform some service to us in return for which we might allow their species to feed under our protection and be safe, these presumably lay as the prey and pickings of other creatures" – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Dec 11 '16 at 11:38
  • Q1 : do you know the meaning of the term Teleology ? See Lucretius : Physics, especially the overview of Books 5 & 6 : "This account, which has won admiration for its partial anticipation of Darwin's principle of the survival of the fittest, is plainly using a kind of natural selection to account non-teleologically for the apparent presence of design in the animal kingdom." – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Dec 11 '16 at 11:40
  • The "argument" (speculation) is not Epicurean, Lucretius essentially repeats Empedocles' zoogony, see IEP:"The creatures assembled wrongly from parts of disparate animals will die out, either immediately, or by being unable to breed, and only the creatures by chance put together from homogeneous limbs will survive and so go on to found the species that we see today. The production of species and their ordering then is explained by a mechanistic process long recognized as a forerunner of Darwin's theory of natural selection". Mechanism vs. teleology. – Conifold Dec 11 '16 at 20:15
  • You're asking too many questions. Can you please focus your question? – Geremia Dec 11 '16 at 23:31

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