Tag Archives: teleology

Nature is a Work of Art

Telos is Greek for an “end” or function, which helps explain why something exists or why its previous actions occurred: in order to serve that function.  Telic action requires some kind representation of the goal that helps achieve it.  In short, teleologists argue that ideas, or something like mental concepts or thoughts, cause events in a way wholly different from the way that objects cause events (atoms, molecules or larger bodies hitting each other and/or reacting). Continue reading

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Purpose, biosemiotics and the complexity sciences

Telos is otherwise known as final cause, one of four causes identified by Aristotle’s natural philosophy: Material cause describes how the physical properties of matter determine what a thing is and how it will react with other things. For example, an ivory ball will roll differently than a wooden ball, as the density and weight of the material determines how much resistance it has. Efficient cause describes how the agent (person, animal, or even a moving object like a billiard ball) acting on something determines what happens. For example, the pool player, the cue stick or ball hitting another ball at rest is the efficient cause of the latter’s moving. Formal cause describes how the “blueprint” or the natural laws of form determine what can be. Some forms are physically impossible; others are very probable. Experienced pool players have learned that certain types of moves can be expected to result in certain types of outcomes, and they may apply their knowledge of geometry to their game.  Final cause describes how the “end,” or the function something ultimately serves, determines what happens or how something develops. The ball was struck so that the pool player might win the game and further develop his abilities and reputation. Continue reading