teleology (tĕlˌēŏlˈəjē, tēˌlē–) [key], in philosophy, term applied to any system attempting to explain a series of events in terms of ends, goals, or purposes. It is opposed to mechanism, the theory that all events may be explained by mechanical principles of causation. Aristotle argued that all nature reflects the purposes of an immanent final cause. Frequently, teleologists have identified purpose in the universe with God's will. The teleological argument for the existence of God holds that order in the world could not be accidental and that since there is design there must be a designer. A more recent evolutionary view finds purpose in the higher levels of organic life but holds that it is not necessarily based in any transcendent being.

See P. C. Gasson, Theory of Design (1973); N. Rescher, ed., Current Issues in Teleology (1986).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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