teleology


teleology
teleological /tel'ee euh loj"i keuhl, tee'lee-/, teleologic, adj.teleologically, adv.teleologism, n.teleologist, n.
/tel'ee ol"euh jee, tee'lee-/, n. Philos.
1. the doctrine that final causes exist.
2. the study of the evidences of design or purpose in nature.
3. such design or purpose.
4. the belief that purpose and design are a part of or are apparent in nature.
5. (in vitalist philosophy) the doctrine that phenomena are guided not only by mechanical forces but that they also move toward certain goals of self-realization.
[1730-40; < NL teleologia. See TELEO-, -LOGY]

* * *

Causality in which the effect is explained by an end (Greek, telos) to be realized.

Teleology thus differs essentially from efficient causality, in which an effect is dependent on prior events. Aristotle's account of teleology declared that a full explanation of anything must consider its final cause
the purpose for which the thing exists or was produced. Following Aristotle, many philosophers have conceived of biological processes as involving the operation of a guiding end. Modern science has tended to appeal only to efficient causes in its investigations. See also mechanism.

* * *

      (from Greek telos, “end”; logos, “reason”), explanation by reference to some purpose or end; also described as final causality, in contrast with explanation by efficient causes only. Human conduct, insofar as it is rational, is generally explained with reference to ends pursued or alleged to be pursued; and human thought tends to explain the behaviour of other things in nature on this analogy, either as of themselves pursuing ends, or as designed to fulfill a purpose devised by a mind transcending nature. The most celebrated account of teleology was that given by Aristotle when he declared that a full explanation of anything must consider not only the material, the formal, and the efficient causes, but also the final cause—the purpose for which the thing exists or was produced.

      With the rise of modern science in the 16th and 17th centuries, interest was directed to mechanistic explanations of natural phenomena, which appeal only to efficient causes; if teleological explanations were used, they took the form not of saying (as in Aristotelian teleology) that things develop toward the realization of ends internal to their own natures but of viewing even biological organisms as machines ingeniously devised by an intelligent being. In the 18th century, William Paley, a Protestant apologist, gave classic expression to this kind of teleology.

      Immanuel Kant's (Kant, Immanuel) Kritik der Urtheilskraft (1790; Critique of Judgment) dealt at length with teleology. While acknowledging—and indeed exulting in—the wondrous appointments of nature, Kant cautioned that teleology can be, for man's knowledge, only a regulative and not a constitutive principle; i.e., a guide to the conduct of inquiry rather than to the nature of reality.

      In the late 19th century, controversy centred on whether the phenomena of growth, regeneration, and reproduction characteristic of living organisms could be explained in purely mechanistic terms. The vitalism of Hans Driesch, a German biologist and philosopher, according to which an Aristotelian entelechy, or immanent agency, must be postulated in every organism, found little support after his death. There remains, however, the question of whether biological processes can be explained in purely physicochemical terms, or whether the problems of structure, function, and organization necessitate some kind of teleology. Organismic conceptions, such as those espoused in the mid-20th century by Ludwig von Bertalanffy, an Austrian-Canadian theoretical biologist, have thrown these issues into a new perspective.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Teleology — (Greek: telos : end, purpose) is the philosophical study of design and purpose. A teleological school of thought is one that holds all things to be designed for or directed toward a final result, that there is an inherent purpose or final cause… …   Wikipedia

  • Teleology — • From Greek telos, end, and logos, science Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Teleology     Teleology     † …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Teleology — Te le*ol o*gy, n. [Gr. ?, teleos, the end or issue + logy: cf. F. t[ e]l[ e]ologie.] The doctrine of the final causes of things; specif. (Biol.), the doctrine of design, which assumes that the phenomena of organic life, particularly those of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • teleology — study of final causes, 1740, from Mod.L. teleologia, coined 1728 by German philosopher Baron Christian von Wolff (1679 1754) from Gk. teleos entire, perfect, complete, properly gen. of telos end, goal, result (see TELE (Cf. tele )), + logia (see… …   Etymology dictionary

  • teleology — [tē΄lē äl′ə jē, tel΄ēäl′ə jē] n. [ModL teleologia < Gr telos, teleos, an end (see TELO 1) + logia (see LOGY)] 1. the study of final causes 2. the fact or quality of being directed toward a definite end or of having an ultimate purpose, esp. as …   English World dictionary

  • teleology — (Gk., telos, end) The study of the ends or purposes of things. The idea that there is such a thing as the end or purpose of life is prominent in the Aristotelian view of nature (and ethics), and then in the Christian tradition. The theory of… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • teleology — noun /ˈtɛl.iˌɒl.ə.dʒi/ a) The study of the purpose or design of natural occurrences. In short, what every student of biology knows – that within nature there is a teleology having to do with the survival of the species which underpins the… …   Wiktionary

  • Teleology — The study of the ultimate purpose of the design of something in nature. For examples, what is the true purpose of the nose? is a teleological question and, to say that all evolutionary changes occur for a definite purpose is a teleological… …   Medical dictionary

  • teleology — noun Etymology: New Latin teleologia, from Greek tele , telos end, purpose + logia logy more at wheel Date: 1740 1. a. the study of evidences of design in nature b. a doctrine (as in vitalism) that ends are immanent in nature c. a doctrine… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • teleology — n. [Gr. teleios, complete; logos, discourse] A theory in biology that evolution or nature is guided by a purpose …   Dictionary of invertebrate zoology


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.