Evolutionary Emergence of Purposive Goals and Values

A Naturalistic Teleology

By Donald A. Crosby

Subjects: Philosophy, Religion, Philosophy Of Science, Metaphysics, Ecology
Hardcover : 9781438493978, 166 pages, August 2023
Paperback : 9781438493961, 166 pages, February 2024

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Table of contents


1. Six Interpretations of Teleology

2. Two Meanings of Telos

3. Teleology and Values

4. Evolutionary Origin and Development of Telic Values

5. Panpsychism and Emergent Novelty

6. Organization as the Key to Mind

7. Teleology and Two Kinds of Religious Faith

Works Cited

Develops and defends a philosophical account of meaning, purpose, and value in human life and experience that is naturalistic without being reductionistic or scientistic.


Where do the purposes, values, and existential meanings of the world come from? For many, they are conferred on the world and on humans within the world by a supernatural, transcendent, personal divine creator and sustainer. For others, they result from a God or divine presence residing within nature. For still others, they give evidence of mind and spirit as primordial principles suffusing nature from the outset and in all of its forms. In Evolutionary Emergence of Purposive Goals and Values, Donald A. Crosby takes issue with each of these views. His thesis is that mind, meaning, purpose, and value come into existence with the evolutionary emergence of life, and that evolution itself gives evidence of the creative power of two primordial natural principles: matter-energy and time. There is no overarching purpose, value, or meaning of nature as such, but there is a plethora of such factors evident in the evolved life forms of nature here on earth. This fact is especially evident in the day-to-day experiences, aspirations, and concerns of us evolutionarily-evolved human beings. Purpose, meaning, and value are therefore gifts of evolutionary nature, not of any supernatural or non-natural principle, presence, or power.

Donald A. Crosby is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Colorado State University. He is the author of many books, including Sacred and Secular: Responses to Life in a Finite World, also published by SUNY Press.


"Many today suspect that if one's worldview does not include the supernatural, then the world is a bleak place where value and meaning are merely subjective or illusory. Developing an emergentist account of value that takes the natural sciences seriously, Donald Crosby develops a religious philosophy that avoids nihilism while making sense of purpose-seeking animals like us." — Kevin Schilbrack, author of Philosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto