Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Teleology (from Greek words telos , “end,” and logos , “reason, discourse”) is the study of processes in nature as they are driven by their ends, goals, and purposes. This is diametrically opposed to a mechanistic explanation based only on cause–effect sequences in time series. Teleological thinking was natural for mythical, anthropomorphic explanations of nature. A tradition of nonmythical teleological explanation starts with Aristotle's concept of causa finalis , thanks to his extraordinary influence on natural sciences in the Middle Ages, although teleological concepts of nature can be found in pre-Socratic philosophers and Plato's dialogues. Aristotle included the end as an additional and the most important cause of all natural processes. It presuppose in general that a final state of affairs in future explains or predetermines the movement from previous states to final ones. Teleology was never too far from theology. Theologists in the Middle Ages identified Aristotelian ends and ...