Friday April 2, 2010, 4-6 PM
Victoria Alexander will give a 30 min talk at 5PM
Secular Teleology for the 21st Century
In a teleological narrative, all the events depicted, or at least the key ones, are chosen and included because of the way they reflect, refract, or prefigure a general theme of the story or the end of the story, the resolution of a problem. There is usually progression or development. Events exist in the story because of the purpose they serve. Critics of “teleological” narratives may claim that “realistic” representation should capture a world in which the parts do not relate to a whole. They may claim that nature is not “progressive” nor is it “self-organizing”—the characteristics of natural processes that Immanuel Kant defined as teleological. Authors who choose to try to write non-teleological novels often have their characters wandering aimlessly without undergoing change, either for better or worse. Many things happen to them that don’t seem to add up to anything. But is this any more of a “realistic” representation of the world and our roles in it?
Recent science provides strong evidence that evolution is progressive insofar as there is a natural tendency toward complexification and increased diversity. That nature is indeed “self-organizing” is also something supported by contemporary science. Is it time to reexamine the definition of a teleological narrative? Should we reconsider the view that aligns teleology with theology? Is it possible to have purely secular teleological narratives that celebrate chance, diversity, and emergent agency? -VNA