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This chapter revisits Ernest Nagel’s view of teleology in biology. In some of his writings from the 1950s to the 1970s, Nagel contended for the legitimacy of teleology in biology but argued against its uniqueness. In addition, Nagel also offered a goal-contribution account in the biological function debate which emerged in the 1960s and the 1970s. While questions of legitimacy and uniqueness of teleology draw little attention today, the biological function debate remains in focus in philosophy of biology. Although the ongoing debate does mention Nagel’s name occasionally, his view, often merely understood as the goal-contribution account, is treated as outdated. However, this treatment is limited, because it fails to consider Nagel’s another important thesis, that is, eliminativism. In this chapter, I attempt to do three things. First, I articulate Nagel’s view, by showing that the eliminativist Nagel considered it acceptable to eliminate teleological terms in biological discourse, and that he also treated them as anthropomorphic vestiges. Second, I defend Nagel’s view and use it to clarify the current biological function debate, by distinguishing a descriptive dimension of this debate from its prescriptive dimension. Third, I hope to deepen Nagel’s view, by pushing it to a further and perhaps its logical conclusion, that is, Kant’s view of biological teleology.
Keywords
Ernest Nagel, Teleology, Philosophy of biology, Eliminativism, Biological function debate, Immanuel Kant

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MLA
Chen, Bohang. “On Ernest Nagel on Teleology in Biology.” Ernest Nagel : Philosophy of Science and the Fight for Clarity, edited by Matthias Neuber and Adam Tamas Tuboly, vol. 53, Springer, 2021, pp. 189–211, doi:10.1007/978-3-030-81010-8_10.
APA
Chen, B. (2021). On Ernest Nagel on teleology in biology. In M. Neuber & A. T. Tuboly (Eds.), Ernest Nagel : philosophy of science and the fight for clarity (Vol. 53, pp. 189–211). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-81010-8_10
Chicago author-date
Chen, Bohang. 2021. “On Ernest Nagel on Teleology in Biology.” In Ernest Nagel : Philosophy of Science and the Fight for Clarity, edited by Matthias Neuber and Adam Tamas Tuboly, 53:189–211. Cham: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-81010-8_10.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Chen, Bohang. 2021. “On Ernest Nagel on Teleology in Biology.” In Ernest Nagel : Philosophy of Science and the Fight for Clarity, ed by. Matthias Neuber and Adam Tamas Tuboly, 53:189–211. Cham: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-81010-8_10.
Vancouver
1.
Chen B. On Ernest Nagel on teleology in biology. In: Neuber M, Tuboly AT, editors. Ernest Nagel : philosophy of science and the fight for clarity. Cham: Springer; 2021. p. 189–211.
IEEE
[1]
B. Chen, “On Ernest Nagel on teleology in biology,” in Ernest Nagel : philosophy of science and the fight for clarity, vol. 53, M. Neuber and A. T. Tuboly, Eds. Cham: Springer, 2021, pp. 189–211.
@incollection{8742411,
  abstract     = {{This chapter revisits Ernest Nagel’s view of teleology in biology. In some of his writings from the 1950s to the 1970s, Nagel contended for the legitimacy of teleology in biology but argued against its uniqueness. In addition, Nagel also offered a goal-contribution account in the biological function debate which emerged in the 1960s and the 1970s. While questions of legitimacy and uniqueness of teleology draw little attention today, the biological function debate remains in focus in philosophy of biology. Although the ongoing debate does mention Nagel’s name occasionally, his view, often merely understood as the goal-contribution account, is treated as outdated. However, this treatment is limited, because it fails to consider Nagel’s another important thesis, that is, eliminativism. In this chapter, I attempt to do three things. First, I articulate Nagel’s view, by showing that the eliminativist Nagel considered it acceptable to eliminate teleological terms in biological discourse, and that he also treated them as anthropomorphic vestiges. Second, I defend Nagel’s view and use it to clarify the current biological function debate, by distinguishing a descriptive dimension of this debate from its prescriptive dimension. Third, I hope to deepen Nagel’s view, by pushing it to a further and perhaps its logical conclusion, that is, Kant’s view of biological teleology.}},
  author       = {{Chen, Bohang}},
  booktitle    = {{Ernest Nagel : philosophy of science and the fight for clarity}},
  editor       = {{Neuber, Matthias and Tuboly, Adam Tamas}},
  isbn         = {{9783030810092}},
  issn         = {{2214-9775}},
  keywords     = {{Ernest Nagel,Teleology,Philosophy of biology,Eliminativism,Biological function debate,Immanuel Kant}},
  language     = {{eng}},
  pages        = {{189--211}},
  publisher    = {{Springer}},
  series       = {{Logic, Epistemology, and the Unity of Science}},
  title        = {{On Ernest Nagel on teleology in biology}},
  url          = {{http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-81010-8_10}},
  volume       = {{53}},
  year         = {{2021}},
}

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