Telos (philosophy)

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A telos (from the Greek τέλος for "end", "purpose", or "goal") is an end or purpose, in a fairly constrained sense used by philosophers such as Aristotle. It is the root of the term "teleology," roughly the study of purposiveness, or the study of objects with a view to their aims, purposes, or intentions. Teleology figures centrally in Aristotle's biology and in his theory of causes. It is central to nearly all philosophical theories of history, such as those of Hegel and Marx. One running debate in contemporary philosophy of biology is to what extent teleological language (as in the "purposes" of various organs or life-processes) is unavoidable, or is simply a shorthand for ideas that can ultimately be spelled out nonteleologically. Philosophy of action also makes essential use of teleological vocabulary: on Davidson's account, an action is just something an agent does with an intention--that is, looking forward to some end to be achieved by the action.

In contrast to telos, techne is the rational method involved in producing an object or accomplishing a goal or objective; however, the two methods are not mutually exclusive in principle.

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