Teleology, from the Greek word telos , which means purpose or end, is the study of aims, ends, purposes and destinies. Teleology definition
In teleology it is believed that human beings and other organisms have purposes and goals that guide their behavior.
To better understand, read the examples below:
- Objects, like knives and televisions, seem to have purposes that are set by humans for them.
- The human being’s goals and purposes are apparently inherent to the human being’s psychology.
As such, many philosophers imagine that only sentient beings and their creations can have a telos .
the history of teleology
Teleology, although named by Christian von Wolff in 1728, originated in the Western world with Plato and Aristotle. They substantially agreed that nature’s purpose was obvious and clear . Teleology definition
They described ideas that ignore the purpose of nature as “absurd”, arguing against the earlier ideas of Democritus and Lucretius.
These last two cited promoted what we now call accidentalism: the standard modern scientific view that the immediate physical causes of events are the only causes.
Teleology by Plato and Aristotle
Plato believed that the natural purposes of things were to realize their potential for goodness, inherited from their “Platonic forms”, that is, from abstract ideals. Thus, for him, material things were mere (imperfect) imitations of ideas.
Aristotle, however, disagreed with Plato. He thought that natural things had inherent natural purposes in some other sense, never well defined. Teleology definition
Aristotle distinguished four types of cause, with “final cause” being the aim or end of something, and argued that it was a severe form of stupidity to think only of immediate causes;
He would have said, for example, that describing the evolution of the eyeballs without acknowledging that the final cause – the benefit of seeing – is the primary cause, it’s stupid.
After Aristotle, Immanuel Kant analyzed teleology in the 18th century, consistently with Aristotle, and which influenced Hegel’s ideas, where history and humanity have some kind of natural destiny.
Although the natural teleology proposed by Kant was inconsistent with modern science, his complete analysis is a basis for the discussion. Teleology definition
nature and teleology
Historically, during the ages of mankind, when nearly everyone believed in gods, it was not a problem to purpose nature, as it was considered something created by conscious being(s): God(s).
And even philosophers without traditional religious beliefs felt compelled by the apparent intelligence of nature’s ‘design’ to assume that it is teleological in some sense.
But now the theory of natural selection has shown how organisms can evolve aimlessly . With this, most philosophers and scientists agree that nature has no telos . Teleology definition
Teleology X Evolutionism
Some people interpret evolution as a way in which nature comes to have real unintentional telos .
In other words, maybe natural law doesn’t have inherent purposes, but then again, maybe evolution puts a real purpose in nature.
Almost everything in biology is the way it is because of its function. Eyes are for seeing, for example, but this kind of statement implies that the evolution of the eye was caused by its purpose rather than the process of random mutation and natural selection. Teleology definition