Can we live without the idea of purpose? Should we even try to? Immanuel Kant thought we were stuck with purpose, and while Darwin’s...

Can we live without the idea of purpose? Should we even try to? Immanuel Kant thought we were stuck with purpose, and while Darwin’s theory of natural selection profoundly shook the idea, it was unable to kill it. In fact, the belief in teleology seems to be making a comeback today, as both religious proponents of intelligent design and even some prominent secular philosophers argue that any explanation of life without the idea of purpose is missing something essential. In his book On Purpose (Princeton University Press, 2017), Michael Ruse explores the history of the idea of purpose in philosophical, religious, scientific, and historical thought, from ancient Greece to the present. He argues that three distinct ideas about purpose have been at the heart of Western thought for more than two thousand years and then traces their profound and fascinating implications. Along the way, Ruse takes up tough questions about the purpose of life and whether would be possible to have meaning without it, revealing that purpose is still a vital and pressing issue.

Michael Ruse is the Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy and Director of the History and Philosophy of Science Program at Florida State University. In addition to On Purpose, he has written or edited more than fifty books, including Darwinism as Religion, The Philosophy of Human Evolution, and The Darwinian Revolution.


Carrie Lynn Evans is a PhD student at Universite Laval in Quebec City.

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