ethics philosophy science

teleology and stuff

The term ‘teleology’ comes from the Greek term ‘telos’, meaning a ‘goal’, an ‘end’, or that toward which a thing tends.

We often skip over or assume (or ignore?) the notion of teleology.  But without it, we cannot say that something is ‘wrong’ with anything.  We cannot speak of anything functioning ‘poorly’ or ‘well’, or of somthing having been ‘poorly’ or ‘well’ designed.  If things don’t tend toward any goal or end, we have no reason to be either pleased or disappointed with any given thing.

In this imaginary conversation, James Chastek cleverly points out how science cannot speak of whether or not the forces in nature are ‘blind’ or of some other kind.  All we can do is measure the result of these forces/causes – of whatever sort(s) they are.

One reply on “teleology and stuff”

update: couldn’t resist quoting the analogy given in a subsequent comment.

Physics doesn’t distinguish between forces as “blind” and “______” (the total failure to name the opposite is a sign), any more than a tape recorder distinguishes between sounds made by rational beings and irrational ones; or grammar distinguishes between written words and typed ones.

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