Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The study of design or purpose in natural phenomena.
  • n. The use of ultimate purpose or design as a means of explaining phenomena.
  • n. Belief in or the perception of purposeful development toward an end, as in nature or history.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The study of the purpose or design of natural occurrences.
  • n. An instance of such a design or purpose, usually in natural phenomena.
  • n. The use of a non-natural purpose or design to explain an occurrence.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The doctrine of the final causes of things.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The doctrine of final causes; the theory of tendency to an end.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. (philosophy) a doctrine explaining phenomena by their ends or purposes

Etymologies

Greek teleios, teleos, perfect, complete (from telos, end, result) + -logy.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Ancient Greek τέλος (telos, "purpose") + λόγος (logos, "word, speech, discourse") (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Intelligence, this is a question altogether foreign to any argument from teleology, seeing that teleology, in so far as it is _teleology_, can only rest upon the observed facts of the cosmos; and if these facts admit of being explained by the action of a single causative principle inherent in the cosmos itself, teleology is not free to assume the action of any causative principle of a more ultimate character.

    A Candid Examination of Theism

  • By the way, teleology is a word I seldom hear, and this is the first time it's come up in an interview.

    Ingrid Hill - An interview with author

  • Perhaps dropping the term teleology helps avoid the confusion witnessed here and it would make it easier to avoid the conflation of terminology used by the ID movement but understanding the history of these arguments is what is important to understand the arguments.

    Francisco Jose Ayala: Darwin's Gift: To Science and Religion - The Panda's Thumb

  • If you want to spin that as "we don't know whether teleology is the explanation", I can't really argue with that, but don't pretend that makes teleology "just as likely" as a non-teleological explanation.

    An Ode to ID

  • The moment teleology is discussed, out goes the science – or at least, in comes the contamination with philosophy.

    Against Darwinism

  • What the standard histories of philosophy write about Aristotle's teleology is unfortunately largely wrong, and must be ignored.

    Against Darwinism

  • In other words, how can you explain teleology by dysteleology?

    Against Darwinism

  • To be as clear as possible: teleology is a post hoc inference, not a propter hoc assumption.

    Alternative to Dembski's Theodicy?

  • This means that the inference to teleology is an inference by exclusion.

    Alternative to Dembski's Theodicy?

  • Allen MacNeill: This means that the inference to teleology is an inference by exclusion.

    Alternative to Dembski's Theodicy?

Comments

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  • Simon Newcomb, perhaps?

    April 5, 2013

  • Yes, indeed, CSP has much to answer for. And who is due the credit or blame for the puzzling visual?

    October 6, 2012

  • In the meantime, philosophypagesdotcom says τελος (télos) is the "Greek term for the end, completion, purpose, or goal of any thing or activity. According to Aristotle, this is the final cause which accounts for the existence and nature of a thing. Following Wolff, modern philosophers (often pejoratively) designate as teleological any explanation, theory, or argument that emphasizes purpose." -- http://www.philosophypages.com/dy/t.htm#telg

    October 5, 2012

  • We should probably blame Charles Sanders Peirce for that Century definition. I'll have to read a little more to figure out what he actually thought of teleology.

    October 5, 2012

  • The doctrine of final causes? The doctrine of adaptation to purpose?
    My pea-sized brain can't grasp the meaning of this word. The examples don't help.

    October 5, 2012

  • ... to think about the teleology of homosexuality, to answer the question "What are homosexuals for?" in a nonpolitical but vital way.
    - Andrew Sullivan, Love Undetectable

    January 3, 2009