Richard Dawkins - The Purpose of Purpose

Our ordinary use of language betrays an implicit metaphysical assumption: unless we've learned otherwise, we tend to think that the universe is imbued with purposes. We are obsessed with this idea. In fact, this assumption is so pervasive that Aristotle tried to codify it as part of any satisfactory causal explanation. When trying to understand the cause for the existence of any object, he thought, one of the four basic questions you should ask is "what is it for?"

Perhaps part of the reason there is so much confusion about evolutionary theory, apart from its philosophical implications and its challenge to religious tradition, lies in the ease with which we confuse real purposes from the appearance of purposes, and the ease with which we equivocate two different kinds of purposes: archeo-purposes and neo-purposes.

Richard Dawkins explains the distinction in this fascinating, thought provoking, and amusing lecture. He also explains how the mechanisms behind many of our mental and emotional adaptations can be subverted for purposes different from the pursuit of our own evolutionary fitness, with profound and serious implications well worth thinking about.



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