Call for Papers Issue 34, July 2018

Teleology and World from Different Perspectives: Philosophy of Mind and Transcendental Phenomenology


Danilo Manca (University of Pisa, Italy)
Rodolfo Giorgi (University of Pisa, Italy)

During the last century, most analytic philosophers have tried to expunge teleological explanations from the field of epistemology. Most of contemporary philosophers of science took for granted that the Darwinian concepts of natural selection and evolution effectively dispense us with any presence of goal-directedness in nature: starting from an anti-metaphysical attitude, they hold purposes and goals to be of religious and spiritual nature, and thereby obstacles to any effective comprehension of biological processes.

Transcendental phenomenology, instead, without contesting the results of the various scientific disciplines, has tried to find a new way to reintroduce teleological considerations in our worldview. According to Husserl, the life of consciousness has an all-pervasive teleological structure: the different layers of constitutive syntheses can be therefore described as pointing to an ultimate goal. The late Husserl, for example, insists on the idea that the history of European culture develops as a teleological process through which reason unfolds itself. Furthermore, in Husserl’s unpublished manuscripts further evidence can be found to understand the constitution of the ontological regions from a teleological point of view. For example, the notion of “drive” (Triebintentionalität) allows Husserl to ascribe a teleological structure not only to the voluntary processes of human beings, but also to spontaneous and unconscious processes such as instincts and feelings.

In the second part of last century, teleological categories were often used to address the problem of intentionality, in order to explain how and why mental states are intentionally directed toward objects. In this framework teleological approaches turned out to be useful to clarify the aboutness of mental states and the more general issue of the relation between thoughts and objects construed in teleological terms: the very notion of “intentionality” represents the key concept to preserve teleological categories in the description of the mental contents.

One of the most explicit teleological solutions to the problem of intentionality is actually offered by the so-called biological teleology, according to which an intentional content depends upon the functions of the system determining them in the natural world: a teleological state being construed as something selected for a purpose by a natural process of selection.

Doubtless, such a debate produces a semantic ambiguity due to the confusion between the original sense of the word “teleology” and its current use in philosophy of biology and neurosciences, which usually tend to look at the selection of a mental representation as a natural and then non-intentional process. As a matter of fact, contemporary teleological theories of mental content overlook the so-called constitutive explanation of the emergence of intentionality by simply reducing to just being a function of the natural world. This often leads to misunderstanding the sense itself that teleological explanations can have in philosophy of mind and transcendental phenomenology respectively. A very similar semantic ambiguity extends over notions like “intentionality” and “phenomenological approach”, which are often used by philosophers of mind without really considering their original, Husserlian meaning.

The aim of this issue of Humana.Mente is to provide a preliminary clarification of the different and often contrasting conceptions of teleology that philosophy of mind and transcendental phenomenology develop in order to explain the essential structure of the world. We firmly believe that a serious dialogue on this issue between these different philosophical traditions is only possible on the basis of a careful conceptual clarification of the notion of teleology itself and of its role in our worldview. We want to confine our inquiry to this preparatory, yet crucial operation. Accordingly, papers are welcomed bearing on the revaluation of teleological categories in contemporary philosophy of mind, or concerning the manner in which the notion of teleology of the world can be understood from the perspective of the Husserlian phenomenology, or, finally, comparing the use of teleological categories in both traditions of thought.

This issue will contain a selection of invited contributions by prominent voices in the philosophical debate. Humana.Mente aims to promote discussion on these topics and encourages all interested scholars to submit original papers devoted primarily to the following topics:

  1. The teleology in transcendental phenomenology
  2. The teleology in non-reductive philosophy of mind
  3. Intentionality as manifestation and exhibition of a teleological structure
  4. The phenomenological description of consciousness as a multi-layered whole
  5. Dualistic perspectives and the phenomenological account of subjective experiences
  6. Emergentism and the phenomenological description of the formation of I from the voluntary activity of the living body
  7. Evolutionism and finalism: two perspectives not necessarily antithetical
  8. Causal mechanisms and teleological processes: two different categories for the account of the behavior of person and the constitution of spiritual world
  9. The limits of a biological teleology
  10. Causality and finality: are they two opposed categories?

Keynote Authors:

1) Dr. Andrea Lavazza, Centro Universitario Internazionale di Arezzo

2) Prof. Charles Taliaferro, St. Olaf College MN (USA)

3) Prof. Mike Shim, Cal State LA (USA)

4) Prof. Alberto Carrara, Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum

5) Dr. Daniele De Santis, University of Rome II

6) Dr. Emiliano Trizio, UWE Bristol (England)

7) Dr. Jacob Martin Rump, Creighton University CA (USA)

8) Dr. Andreas Elpidorou, University of Louisville KY (USA)

Manuscripts should be sent to:

Important dates:

Deadline for submissions: March 31, 2018

Notification of acceptance: May 31, 2018

Publication of special issue: July 2018

For any further information please contact:

Danilo Manca:

Rodolfo Giorgi: