Is Reality Inherently Intentional or Externally Accidental?

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Reply Sun 15 Mar, 2009 12:05 pm
In the Wikipedia entry under idealism I found the following description:

"Idealism is the philosophical theory which maintains that the ultimate nature of reality is based on mind or ideas. It holds that the so-called external or "real world" is inseparable from mind, consciousness, or perception.

...idealism is contrasted with realism in which the external world is said to have a so-called absolute existence prior to, and independent of, knowledge and consciousness. Epistemological idealists (such as Kant), it is claimed, might insist that the only things which can be directly known for certain are just ideas (abstraction)."

And under the entry on realism I found this:

"Contemporary philosophical realism is the belief in a reality that is completely ontologically independent of our conceptual schemes, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc. " -----


Now, I believe that nature exhibits purpose, but that purpose can be held independently from the minds of individuals. So I am not a subjective idealist but rather a metaphysical realist as the purposes in nature and the purpose of the whole continues beyond the mind of the individual.

The problem that I seem to face is how to ascribe something akin to mind, spirit, intelligence etc. to external reality? And to solve this I would point out the exhibition of regularity of order within nature; an argument from design, if you will.

For example: how could the earth repeat its revolutions with such a high degree of regularity? What could be the possible cause of this fact? How or why would the universe organize itself into galaxies, stars, planets and atoms? How could such a thing be a pure accident? How comes it that life exists? how is it that human consciousness with its history and sciences be a pure accident? In short, how could reality as we know it be accidental?

It seems to me that either there are inherent purposes in nature or else it is all some fluke. I'm not arguing that the purpose of men is to revere the purpose of the whole cosmos or any such thing. But that man has an end, which is happiness, and that we fulfill this end by achieving happiness, and that all other human functions are subordinate to the achievement of happiness. And that by achieving this end we will consequently find harmony between us and external reality.

When we achieve our purpose (happiness) then we are at one with the purpose of the whole.
--
 
Victor Eremita
 
Reply Sun 15 Mar, 2009 12:18 pm
@Pythagorean,
Quote:
In short, how could reality as we know it be accidental?

If you believe in realism, then yeah, the universe is as it is. We're just mere incidentals in the cosmos. Reality is shaped by natural processes that are beyond our comprehension, and it just happens to be shaped the way as we perceive them now. If we're realists, we can't ascribe luck or accident to something external to us.

If we're idealists then we have some degree of influence over the external world and then we can ascribe something to it (because we're partly responsible for the external world)
 
Kage phil
 
Reply Sun 15 Mar, 2009 12:36 pm
@Victor Eremita,
I tend to agree with some of Pythagorean's points.


I personally have quite a hard time believing we're a fluke and though not entirely sure how this and that works agree with this statement in particular

Quote:

It seems to me that either there are inherent purposes in nature or else it is all some fluke. I'm not arguing that the purpose of men is to revere the purpose of the whole cosmos or any such thing. But that man has an end, which is happiness, and that we fulfill this end by achieving happiness, and that all other human functions are subordinate to the achievement of happiness. And that by achieving this end we will consequently find harmony between us and external reality.

When we achieve our purpose (happiness) then we are at one with the purpose of the whole.
--
 
BrightNoon
 
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 08:52 am
@Pythagorean,
Pythagorean wrote:
For example: how could the earth repeat its revolutions with such a high degree of regularity? What could be the possible cause of this fact? How or why would the universe organize itself into galaxies, stars, planets and atoms? How could such a thing be a pure accident? How comes it that life exists? how is it that human consciousness with its history and sciences be a pure accident? In short, how could reality as we know it be accidental?

It seems to me that either there are inherent purposes in nature or else it is all some fluke.


There is a tendency to make an unnecessary distinction between random/accidental and deliberate action. Consider a simple example that is representive of any 'how can this be so perfectly...' question. 'Why do chemical x and chemical y, when joined at 65 degrees Celcius form precipitate z?' Unless you intend to merely describe the reaction, that question has no answer, and is in fact a non-sensical question; i.e. it is posed such that an answer is impossible, and not because we don't know the answer; there is no answer. An answer is not logically possible, could not be imagined. The only answer, which is nothing but an unsatisfying reformulation of the question (a grammatical solution, which should demonstrate that the problem is grammatical, not 'real') i is something like 'X and Y generate Z under Q circumstances because otherwise they would not be X and Y in Q circumstances.' In other words, the world is the world and not another world. The world is divisable into whatever conceptual parts we choose (elements, compounds, etc), whose behavior is defined by how we define them. 'Why is a ball round?' Because we have defined that which is round as 'ball.'

The point I'm trying to make is that nothing is random or accidental, unless everything is random or accidental, in which case the term means nothing; any definition only has meaning so long as it is to some extent exclusive; the essence of definition is division, into parts; a whole is not divided: no delimitation. Every action could be called either deliberate or accidental, but to use both for different phenomena implies a non-existent distinction.

IMO everything is absolutely deterministic; only what will happen can happen. The idea of accident or randomness is the product of our own error, i.e. our ascription of 'free will' to ourselves. Once this error is made (which is pleasant error by the way: error does not equal 'bad thing' or sin), everything which we do (or which we imagine a 'higher entity' does) seems deliberate and everything else seems accidental, like the fact that X and Y form Z. You have extrapolated further and turned the logic back upon itself, asking 'how can this be accidental?' In other words, there are already multiple (in my view faulty) assumptions in this question.

Thanks
 
Khethil
 
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 12:33 pm
@BrightNoon,
If the planets around the stars in our galaxy went in figure-eights or squares and all foliage in our world were based in purple, we'd be saying the same thing: How could all this form and function be by accident?

It's a matter of perspective. We perceive a shadow of what is, learn some portion of its nature, then say "Wow! this can't be an accident!". Well, as I think previous posters have tried to say, it's likely not. There's a big difference between elements forming, combining, splitting, combining in mass, colliding etc; as per materials do in our realm, and "an accident".

I'm not sure there's any "accident" at all. That term implies that what was intended to occur, didn't (e.g., I tripped while walking through the door) and is ultimately built on someone's intent.

Not sure if this helps or adds to the discussion; hope so.
 
Pythagorean
 
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 01:21 pm
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon wrote:
There is a tendency to make an unnecessary distinction between random/accidental and deliberate action. Consider a simple example that is representive of any 'how can this be so perfectly...' question. 'Why do chemical x and chemical y, when joined at 65 degrees Celcius form precipitate z?' Unless you intend to merely describe the reaction, that question has no answer, and is in fact a non-sensical question; i.e. it is posed such that an answer is impossible, and not because we don't know the answer; there is no answer. An answer is not logically possible, could not be imagined. The only answer, which is nothing but an unsatisfying reformulation of the question (a grammatical solution, which should demonstrate that the problem is grammatical, not 'real') i is something like 'X and Y generate Z under Q circumstances because otherwise they would not be X and Y in Q circumstances.' In other words, the world is the world and not another world. The world is divisable into whatever conceptual parts we choose (elements, compounds, etc), whose behavior is defined by how we define them. 'Why is a ball round?' Because we have defined that which is round as 'ball.'

The point I'm trying to make is that nothing is random or accidental, unless everything is random or accidental, in which case the term means nothing; any definition only has meaning so long as it is to some extent exclusive; the essence of definition is division, into parts; a whole is not divided: no delimitation. Every action could be called either deliberate or accidental, but to use both for different phenomena implies a non-existent distinction.

IMO everything is absolutely deterministic; only what will happen can happen. The idea of accident or randomness is the product of our own error, i.e. our ascription of 'free will' to ourselves. Once this error is made (which is pleasant error by the way: error does not equal 'bad thing' or sin), everything which we do (or which we imagine a 'higher entity' does) seems deliberate and everything else seems accidental, like the fact that X and Y form Z. You have extrapolated further and turned the logic back upon itself, asking 'how can this be accidental?' In other words, there are already multiple (in my view faulty) assumptions in this question.

Thanks


Fascinating reply. I won't pretend to fully understand you but if what I think I understand is correct, then I would like to attempt a response here.

I think I can reach outside of language and assign universal terms there which could give philosphical meaning to certain actions (because everything can not be everything without it being nothing, and everything can not be nothing). There is a point of discovery where the accidental is seperated from this initiation of a purposeful project. I would say that the accidental is purely subjective, while the discovery of purposive, directed thinking or science is metaphysical.

There must be a more effective way to do chemistry, for example, and a less effective way to do chemistry; and this world must be capable of being more specifically this world than other designations of this world. And we are a priori more justified in performing certain experiments and less justified in performing others. The linguistic and logical terms that we give to identify things are indeed arbitrary but how can they be wholly arbitrary since there are both more and less adequate ways of doing things? So the errors are purely subjective in my view.

And I would not call certain things accidental and certain other things deliberate. The notion of a thing being strictly accidental is unintelligible while the notion of a thing being deliberate means that we have arrived at a point of justification for its existence.

So I guess I'm saying that purposeful activity is self-justifying and metaphysical while 'accidental' things, or 'randomness', is the failure to discover proper ends or failure to properly classify entities according to self-justifying ends.
 
BrightNoon
 
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 03:32 pm
@Pythagorean,
Pythagorean wrote:
There must be a more effective way to do chemistry, for example, and a less effective way to do chemistry; and this world must be capable of being more specifically this world than other designations of this world. And we are a priori more justified in performing certain experiments and less justified in performing others. The linguistic and logical terms that we give to identify things are indeed arbitrary but how can they be wholly arbitrary since there are both more and less adequate ways of doing things? So the errors are purely subjective in my view.


I agree that purpose is totally subjective, so I have to ask: affective/adequate for who or what? It is best for homo sapiens to conduct a certain experiment in a certain way in order to achieve a certain end. We cannot imagine what or who, but it is concievable in general that another entity would have other needs or abilities, or desire other ends and conduct that experiment differently. That experiment might be conducted with emphasis on some aspect of it unknown to us, or it might not be conducted at all because there is nothing in it of signicance or which is even sensable to the other entity.

The world is the world and not another world, but that dosen't mean that it is A cognizable world. The thought 'world' comes through and is inseperable from the being which thinks the thought; i.e. it is an interpretation. The world is as many cognizable worlds as there are perspectives, and I suppose that everything from quarks to galaxies has a perspective. Basically, my assertion is that the world which exists independently of our experience of it (which some people would say is the objective/empiric world) does not have a nature or properties or qualities. Those are products of the interpreting. Qualities (encompassing all terms that we use to define/describe/understand the world) ar e not facts of the world. Its a fine line, but saying that just the names or terms are arbitrary is not sufficient; there is nothing beyond the names and terms and the concepts they represent: i.e. nothing that we could understand, as understanding requires those names, terms and concepts. So to speak of underlying laws or properties that regulate chemical reactions regardless of our knowledge of them dosen't get to the heart of the problem.
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Mon 16 Mar, 2009 04:48 pm
@BrightNoon,
Although I am in a fairly firm Idealist camp, but given the realiness of realism I'd say we are using the wrong words to define the randomness/accidental portrayed in the realist universe.

If the real universe is technically infinite, then how can we really aplly probabilities to the infinite. random and accident seem to me to be 'one of many possibilities within a finite set of possibilities', but if reality is infinite then possibilities are infinite and the probability becomes a simple binary, It either is or isn't. Much like flipping a coin we shouldn;t be surprised each individual times the coin lands on heads. If realism is the "real" way to go then there is no such thing as an accident and things are the way they are because they must be, but it doesn't necessarily imply that there is a directing force.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 17 Mar, 2009 04:19 am
@Pythagorean,
Quote:
Now, I believe that nature exhibits purpose, but that purpose can be held independently from the minds of individuals


Perhaps the 'minds of individuals' are actually an instance of a more general phenomenon? After all, physiologically, we are not individuals in the sense that our bodily functions operate the same way, or along similar lines; we are in that sense unique instances of similar kinds of beings. In this way, humans can be said to embody a process which has been unfolding through evolution for billions of years; on one level, we are each and all 'humankind'. The mind is only individuated on a very shallow level; deep down it is collective in many respects.

Aristotle said: '... every substance not only possess a form; one could say it is also possessed by a form, for it naturally strives to realise its inherent form. It strives to become a perfect specimen of its kind. Every substance seeks to actualise what it is potentially.' (Tarnas, 'Passions of the Western Mind', p.58)

In this way Aristotle believed the essential nature of things lay not at their cause (or beginning) but at their end (telos).'

Of course, 'telos' is forbidden by empricists. However, it seems more than chance to me that evolution has unfolded in such a way that its products, or children - us - are such that we are able to contemplate 'the form of things'.
 
Pythagorean
 
Reply Tue 17 Mar, 2009 03:48 pm
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon wrote:
I agree that purpose is totally subjective, so I have to ask: affective/adequate for who or what? It is best for homo sapiens to conduct a certain experiment in a certain way in order to achieve a certain end. We cannot imagine what or who, but it is concievable in general that another entity would have other needs or abilities, or desire other ends and conduct that experiment differently. That experiment might be conducted with emphasis on some aspect of it unknown to us, or it might not be conducted at all because there is nothing in it of signicance or which is even sensable to the other entity.


But if it is conceivable for us to imagine another being who is able to conduct an experiment differently then, in principle, we would be able to conceive, at least partially, the aims of the other being. It seems that you must be able to prove that it is somehow unconceivable for us to posess some justifiable relation to things in the universe as it truly exists. As long as our conceptions can be justified more or less so then the world is actual and our purposes have real meaning to them, in my opinion.

What I was trying to say before was that if one conceives the world, or the universe, as accidental and random, then that person is (at least at that particular moment) holding a subjective or unintelligible position. And if one is conceiving the universe in a genuninely scientific or purposeful manner, then that person is in harmony with reality because his position is self-justified.

This Archimedean point is the lever which, for example, allows for communication between people who both speak different languages and who both posess different cultural backrounds. It is what allows the same physical sciences to be learned by widely differing social groups in very much the same way.

BrightNoon wrote:
The world is the world and not another world, but that dosen't mean that it is A cognizable world. The thought 'world' comes through and is inseperable from the being which thinks the thought; i.e. it is an interpretation. The world is as many cognizable worlds as there are perspectives, and I suppose that everything from quarks to galaxies has a perspective. Basically, my assertion is that the world which exists independently of our experience of it (which some people would say is the objective/empiric world) does not have a nature or properties or qualities. Those are products of the interpreting. Qualities (encompassing all terms that we use to define/describe/understand the world) ar e not facts of the world. Its a fine line, but saying that just the names or terms are arbitrary is not sufficient; there is nothing beyond the names and terms and the concepts they represent: i.e. nothing that we could understand, as understanding requires those names, terms and concepts. So to speak of underlying laws or properties that regulate chemical reactions regardless of our knowledge of them dosen't get to the heart of the problem..


I think I basically understand your position BrightNoon and your statements are very well put and are very finely woven.

It seems you say two different things here. One, that what exists in the physical world is dependent upon our human perceptions and two, that we cannot go beyond language or our own terms and therefore we can never get to any kind of 'true' world. And, of course, I disagree (but it is a pleasure to be able to discuss it).

I would ask if the names, terms and concepts are arbitrary (and I insist that they are arbitrary) doesn't that prove that the things which they stand for (the things that they refer to) are things that persist beyond the changing labels that different peoples use to refer to them? To say that our language is arbitrary is not to say that our concepts are arbitrary because it is through our concepts that we recognize the aribtrariness of our language. There is an understanding beyond language by which we could conceivably learn other languages and apply other labels to things. We can vary our labels precisely because we posess an understanding that goes beyond them.

Our reference terms are arbitrary precisely because there exists a non-arbitrary unity between the meanig of the names on the one hand, and the objects themselves on the other hand. There must be a point at which the randomness of the world fades into a human project that is orderly, purposeful and directed, and this point serves as the justification for science itself.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Tue 31 Mar, 2009 07:05 pm
@Pythagorean,
Scientific evidence implies that reality is circumstantial and situational. There is no evidence for intention or purpose in the universe, other than the intentions and purposes we set for ourselves.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 1 Apr, 2009 06:26 pm
@Pythagorean,
It's all a matter of interpretation. I am reading 'Fabric of the Cosmos' by Brian Greene, a physicist, who says in the first chapter of the book that very many of the characteristics and attributes of the cosmos which have made it possible for humans to exsit, were apparently generated in the very first micro-billionths of a second of the big bang. Without saying the obvious 'well God did it', it is still impossible to argue that the seminal 'moment of creation' did not have a bearing on everything that has happened since. Platonists have always argued this, and I am finding it a very hard argument to deny. Now whether this amounts to 'intention' in the conscious sense is a different matter. But it certainly implies that the capacity of the universe to engender intentional beings was there from the outset.
 
Pythagorean
 
Reply Thu 2 Apr, 2009 06:04 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs wrote:
It's all a matter of interpretation. I am reading 'Fabric of the Cosmos' by Brian Greene, a physicist, who says in the first chapter of the book that very many of the characteristics and attributes of the cosmos which have made it possible for humans to exsit, were apparently generated in the very first micro-billionths of a second of the big bang. Without saying the obvious 'well God did it', it is still impossible to argue that the seminal 'moment of creation' did not have a bearing on everything that has happened since. Platonists have always argued this, and I am finding it a very hard argument to deny. Now whether this amounts to 'intention' in the conscious sense is a different matter. But it certainly implies that the capacity of the universe to engender intentional beings was there from the outset.


Yes, it is a matter of interpretation. I agree with you that "the capacity of the universe to engender intentional beings was there from the outset". But others will, no doubt, construct new arguments saying the universe is essentially meaningless.

Furthermore, they will say that the interpretation of the matter is a case of personal decision. When they say the universe is meaningless what they are saying is that it all comes down to a matter of asserting one's individual will to come to the decision. As Nietzsche and Satre and the existentialists have taught, when the world is interpreted as being without purpose, then the isolated individual who lives in the universal void is left only with a radical assertion of will which is his choice to assert in 'whatever' way he decides. But it is important to realize that they have no rational basis upon which to make such decision.

Plato, at least, had some reasons to offer for his position. And so did Aristotle. They said that a human being is a certain kind of animal, and to this certain kind of animal there could be applied standards of what was good for a human and what was bad for a human. And what was good for a human was defined as a rational choice, a choice on the basis of generally understood attributes of what humans are actually like, how they behave in general, etc. What Plato and Aristotle defined as "the good" was really the meaning of life itself. And this kind of intention, the intention of living a good life, can not be offered upon a rational basis by those who hold the opinion that life is purposeless.

So yeah, it's a matter of interpretation up to a point - but only up to a point. Because defining human nature as having a purpose, in the end, is a matter of practical activity and not a matter of interminable philosophical debate. Some will make blind choices in a meaningless void while others will attempt to live a rationally informed good life (and still others will write about both of these).
 
xris
 
Reply Thu 2 Apr, 2009 06:43 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs wrote:
It's all a matter of interpretation. I am reading 'Fabric of the Cosmos' by Brian Greene, a physicist, who says in the first chapter of the book that very many of the characteristics and attributes of the cosmos which have made it possible for humans to exsit, were apparently generated in the very first micro-billionths of a second of the big bang. Without saying the obvious 'well God did it', it is still impossible to argue that the seminal 'moment of creation' did not have a bearing on everything that has happened since. Platonists have always argued this, and I am finding it a very hard argument to deny. Now whether this amounts to 'intention' in the conscious sense is a different matter. But it certainly implies that the capacity of the universe to engender intentional beings was there from the outset.
Thanks for that reference it has been something i have claimed for myself for a long time.If you understand there is a formula for life, that formula has always existed,you cant invent a formula, it exists or it does not, it works or it fails.It was not a possibility our existence, it was inevitable the very moment the singularity came into being.Everything that has occurred was written and it could never fail to be.The formula is an intention to create, can we constantly say that every formula, every amazing event that led us to this pondering was due to chaotic accidents..For me its like vomitting a four course cordon bleu meal and bottle of chateaux plonk 66 on a silk table cloth.
 
hue-man
 
Reply Thu 2 Apr, 2009 08:22 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs wrote:
It's all a matter of interpretation. I am reading 'Fabric of the Cosmos' by Brian Greene, a physicist, who says in the first chapter of the book that very many of the characteristics and attributes of the cosmos which have made it possible for humans to exsit, were apparently generated in the very first micro-billionths of a second of the big bang. Without saying the obvious 'well God did it', it is still impossible to argue that the seminal 'moment of creation' did not have a bearing on everything that has happened since. Platonists have always argued this, and I am finding it a very hard argument to deny. Now whether this amounts to 'intention' in the conscious sense is a different matter. But it certainly implies that the capacity of the universe to engender intentional beings was there from the outset.


Those characteristics and attributes were there due to the circumstances and situations that determined them. Also, we needed our Sun and planet to exist as we do, and those were certainly not there at the beginning of the universe, and most of the universe is too cold for life to even inhabit.

Any attempt (including Platonism) to assign purpose, design or intent to the universe will ultimately fail. The universe is neither malevolent nor benevolent, which is why you have natural fortune and misfortune. It has no intent or purpose, especially not for us, though we still like to think that the universe revolves around us.

The nature of reality should not just be a matter of interpretation or perspective. When we speak of ontology we need to keep our subjective thinking out of the discussion.
 
xris
 
Reply Thu 2 Apr, 2009 08:47 am
@hue-man,
hue-man wrote:
Those characteristics and attributes were there due to the circumstances and situations that determined them. Also, we needed our Sun and planet to exist as we do, and those were certainly not there at the beginning of the universe, and most of the universe is too cold for life to even inhabit.

Any attempt (including Platonism) to assign purpose, design or intent to the universe will ultimately fail. The universe is neither malevolent nor benevolent, which is why you have natural fortune and misfortune. It has no intent or purpose, especially not for us, though we still like to think that the universe revolves around us.

The nature of reality should not just be a matter of interpretation or perspective. When we speak of ontology we need to keep our subjective thinking out of the discussion.
Why should the planets not being there at the start of the universe go against what he proposes nor if the majority of the universe is cold ..the desert is hot but not where i live..Purpose or intent is not what it proposes, it only concludes what is obvious its for you to argue that is not the case..
 
hue-man
 
Reply Thu 2 Apr, 2009 08:58 am
@xris,
xris wrote:
Why should the planets not being there at the start of the universe go against what he proposes nor if the majority of the universe is cold ..the desert is hot but not where i live..Purpose or intent is not what it proposes, it only concludes what is obvious its for you to argue that is not the case..


And what is obvious?
 
xris
 
Reply Thu 2 Apr, 2009 09:04 am
@hue-man,
hue-man wrote:
And what is obvious?
The formula for life has always existed...
 
hue-man
 
Reply Thu 2 Apr, 2009 09:22 am
@xris,
xris wrote:
The formula for life has always existed...


The formula for life hasn't always existed. What about the time when the universe was a singularity? Also, I'm not so sure that all of the elements were created in the first micro-billionths of a second of the universe, but I'll look into that. Even if the formula for life did exist from the beginning of the expansion of the universe, it doesn't mean anything more than that.

As for your question as to why our planet and sun not being there matters, it matters because those are the more specific things that we need to exist in this universe. You can have all of the hydrogen, helium, oxygen, and H20 that you could imagine, but it doesn't matter if the Earth and the Sun don't exist. When we speak of ourselves specifically, we needed this particular galaxy, and this particular solar system to exist in order for us to exist. The fact that this particular solar system was caused by a past event is completely circumstantial and situational. In a different set of circumstances and situations, the event that caused our solar system could have never happened, and then all of those elements that were created at the beginning of the expansion would mean nothing to us because we wouldn't exist.
 
Pythagorean
 
Reply Thu 2 Apr, 2009 09:28 am
@hue-man,
hue-man wrote:
Those characteristics and attributes were there due to the circumstances and situations that determined them. Also, we needed our Sun and planet to exist as we do, and those were certainly not there at the beginning of the universe, and most of the universe is too cold for life to even inhabit.

Any attempt (including Platonism) to assign purpose, design or intent to the universe will ultimately fail. The universe is neither malevolent nor benevolent, which is why you have natural fortune and misfortune. It has no intent or purpose, especially not for us, though we still like to think that the universe revolves around us.



The tree is not "there" in the acorn either, but it is the intention of the acorn to become a tree. You see what I mean?


hue-man wrote:
The nature of reality should not just be a matter of interpretation or perspective. When we speak of ontology we need to keep our subjective thinking out of the discussion.


The question I have is: how do we account for the differences between the teleological interpretation and the interpretation of its opponents?

--
 
 

 
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