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Teleology

purpose, world, mechanism, natural, causes, explanation, modern, principle, efficient and particular

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TELEOLOGY (Greek, telos, °end° or °purpose) denotes a mode of explanation in accordance with which the world as a whole, or particular forms within it, are regarded as due to the realization of some end or purpose on the part of some intelligence existing either in the world or outside it. Thus we might account for the various arrangements of the physical uni• verse— the distribution of land and water, the movements of the heavenly bodies, the changes of the seasons — by referring them to some end that the governing power of the universe is thereby achieving, as, for example, the preserva tion and comfort of mankind. Or we might ex plain the structure of an organism or of any of its parts by reference to the purpose that it, serves, as, for example, the presence of fish in the sea through their usefulness to man as food, or the structure of the eye through the actual service that it renders. It is natural to assume that everything has been made for man and to regard all things as existing for his service and convenience, that 4even the cork-trees,* as Hegel remarked in satirizing this view, ((have been produced in order that we may have stop pers for our bottles.* Teleology does not al ways adopt this narrowly anthropocentric point of view. But the very essence of its procedure is to postulate the existence of some intelligible ends or purposes in the world, and to read the various natural nhenomenTbil--e-refeilEilii ffiese eridf. is thus explaira-tiodlii terms-WU-final causality, rather than in terms of efficient causes or mechanism. Teleologry seeks to make things intelligible by showing their relation to an end that is being realized; it answers the question (Why?* or, (Tor what purpose?'' Mechanism, or explanation by efficient causes, on the other hand, knows nothing of a purpose.. It shows how the result has actually been pro duced by the operation of natural causes, acting according to invariable laws. It explains by answenng the question al-low It is well known that there has been a constant conflict, throughout the whole history of thought, be tween teleological and.mechanical modes of ex planation. • • be said to be the s si . s the world an• all that it con ns mere y the natural product of efficient causes acting with out any intelligent guidance, or is there some purpose or system of purposes being realized? The terms in which the conflict between teleology and mechanism are expressed have teen modified in recent times, and it is per haps well to note some fundamental differences between the thought of the present time and the earlier mode of conceiving teleologw. The older teleology regarded God (or the gods) as a being outside of the world who in an eacternal way was accomplishing some purpose through it, as the mechanician uses a machine to accotnplish his purposes. From the modem point of viewo God is identical with the ultimate principle ofi things. The purpose of the world, if any intel ligible purpose exists, is not something super imposed on it from without, but an inner or immanent purpose to which it naturally and everywhere gives expression. The general ac ceptance of the modern doctrine of evolution, with its natural explanation of organic forms and modifications, at first appeared to overthrow teleology. For it was from the phenomena of organic life dun the defenders of the older teleology had drawn their strongest proofs.

Living forms and processes did not seem ex plicable by mechanical process, and here, at, particular points, it was supposed one could trace the operation and determining influence of the teleological factor. The Darwinian theory doubtless destroys the possibility of conceiving teleology as a particular influence that occa-, sionally intervenes at special points in the proc ess of the world, superseding and doing the work of efficient causes. But modern thought has come to realize that the end or purpose is not something that operates here or there, at particular points, but as immanent principle is the underlying basis of the world-process as a whole. In other words, there is no conflict be tween teleology and mechanism — between ex plantation by means of final and that by means of efficient causes — when the proper sphere and limitations of each are understood, but it is 1 eniair rather true that as mutually comp em con ceptions they presuppose each other. Modern teleology admits to the full the rights of me chanical explanation in every field. But it in sists that the facts of experience and the nature of our intelligence demand that we shall everr where go eyon• is • •-• n an- an . • " ' prntets.-- • o o exp natton are thus on different planes, and opposition between them only arises from failure to recognize this fact. As Lotze says: ((The true source of the life of science is to be found in showing how absolutely universal is the extent, and at the same time how completely limited the signifi cance of the mission which mechanism, haw to fulfil in the structure of the universe.* . jatiqn Both a mechanical and a teleological view of the world was developed by-Greek philosophy, the former by the Atomists, of whom Democri tus is chief, the latter mainly by Plato and Aristotle. The influence of the latter thinIcers, united with the general spirit of the Christian doctrines, made the teleological the prevailing mode of explanation during the Middle Ages. The pioneers of modern thought,— Galileo. Ba con, Descartes, Gassendi, Hobbes, Spinoza-ri worked out anew the mechanical theory, mak ing it a powerful instrument of research by basing it on exact mathematical principles. They were strongly opposed to teleology, which they regarded as entirely unable to furnish scientific explanations of natural occurrence& Leilinitz was perhaps the first thinker in modern times who saw that teleology and rnechanism catt be reconciled by properly distinVichinti-lh•tt: where each principle has its valid appli For Kant (whose treatment of teleology is very important), mechanism is the only principle that we can confidently apply in science as objec tively determining phenomena. Teleology, on the other hand, although a necessary subjective thought when we are dealing with organic phe nomena, cannot be affirmed to have objective application. Living things must appear to ns as if they were determined h.t_sgme-end,but we can never say that this purpose is actually present outside our minds in the objective phe nomena themselves. At the same time, whil mechanism is and must remain the sole prin ciple of determination in the phenomenal world, Kant teaches that we are obliged to postulate world of noumenal or more ultimate reali where teleology, by recognition of a moral purpose in the world, becomes the fitral deter mining principle. (See also MEcHmnsai).

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