Aristotelian universe
The general scheme of teleology, in the Aristotelian universe view of things, according to which all things in the universe have a tendency to move to their optimal or desired location, just as fire tends to rise, and earth tends to sink.
In philosophy, teleology (TR:55), from the Greek telos “end” + -logia “divine origin”, a theory in Aristotelean cosmology, is a doctrine holding that matter—specifically matter of the four element variety: earth, air, water, fire—or matter in any its modern formulations, e.g. sentient matter—has a goal, conceived as its “purpose”, which is to go to its natural place, i.e. its “end”, “final cause”, or satiated location in the cosmos, a theory based on geocentric cosmology reasoning, namely that earth is at the bottom, in the scheme of a flat earth cosmos, fire is at the top, and each element tends towards its natural location in this scheme, e.g. fire rises because it wants to go to its higher location, and earth falls likewise to go to its natural lower place. Teleology, in an early 20th century sense (Weiss, 1925), assumes that events are not mechanically related to cause and effect, but that there is a culminating anthropomorphic condition or millennium to which ever thing is approaching. [6]

The term “teleology” is generally attributed to Aristotle who, in the context of his general theory of everything, is said to have coined the term. (Ѻ)

Likewise, the term “entelecheia”, said to be coined by Aristotle, designates a completed state resulting from an internal movement towards this state. (Ѻ)

The derivative term “telos” is defined or conceptualized as “inner purpose”. (Ѻ)

The work of Immanuel Kant sought to reconcile or harmonize the teleological and mechanical conceptions of the world. (Ѻ)

In circa 1910, Hans Driesch advocated the notion of “entelochies” a sort of inner goal-directed agent hypothesized to be the mechanism behind developmental organism traits. (Ѻ)

Physical | Humanities teleology
In 1983, American physicist Bruce Lindsay, in his “Social Exemplifications of Physical Principles”, had the following telling words to say about teleology in physics: [5]

“The teleological idea or the concept of purpose is involved in several physical principles, notably Hamilton’s principle and the related but identical principle of least action, Hertz’s principle of the straightest path, Gauss’ principle of least constraint, and Fermat’s principle of least time. They all effectively state that things take place in the physical world, e.g. the motions of systems of particles, in such a way as to make a certain function assume a stationary value under certain boundary conditions, usually a minimum as compared with all possible values satisfying the given conditions. For example, Hamilton’s principle says that for a conservative dynamical system the motion between any two instants of time is such that the time integral of the difference between the kinetic and potential energies taken between these two instances has a stationary value. It has as if the system had a certain purpose to satisfy.”

Lindsay, skipping a paragraph, continues:

“With respect to the possible idea of purpose involved philosophers have argued that since Hamilton’s principle is not necessary for the deduction of the actual motion of the dynamical systems, i.e. the Newtonian or Lagrangian equations are fully adequate, we have no real logical ground for insisting that nature imposes a teleological requirement on motions in our experience. Nevertheless the fact that one can exhibit the principles of mechanics in a teleological guise is persuasive, since it serves to tie physical principles with an idea basic to the interpretation that human beings give too much of their ordinary experience, particularly in their relations with other human beings.

A rational individual is said to arrange his actions so as to be sure of achieving his fundamental desires, whether it be to accumulate wealth or gain power over his fellow men. In particular the aim here is almost always to try to attain the given desired end at minimum cost in human effort. This strongly suggests a heuristic connection with the minimum principles of physics.”

Lindsay, to note, goes on to cite and discuss George Zipf and his Human Behavior and the Principle of Least Effort as a case in point.

The real “minimum principle”, however, which Lindsay should have discussed, in respect to human behavior, is the free energy minimum principle. Being a physicist, however, it is conceivable that Lindsay was not as intuned to this insight.

Chemical teleology
The leading expositor of the lurking problems with chemical teleology, or the subtle usage of teleological statements and reasoning in chemical education, since 2007, has been Mexican-born American chemist Vicente Talanquer.

Social teleology
Stephen Turner (2008) devotes a number of pages to the issues with “social teleology” arguments, such as found in the works of Max Weber, Ernest Nagel, and Pierre Bourdieu, among others. (Ѻ)

In 2002, Robert Cummins began to popularize the term “neo-teleology”, akin to neo-vitalism. (Ѻ)

The following are related quotes:

“I feel profoundly convinced that the argument of design has been greatly too much lost sight of in recent zoological speculations. Reactions against the frivolities of teleology, such as are to be found, not rarely, in the notes of the learned commentators on Paley's Natural Theology, has, I believe, had a temporary effect in turning attention from the solid and irrefragable argument so well put forward in that excellent old book. But overwhelmingly strong proofs of intelligent and benevolent design lie all around us, and if ever perplexities, whether metaphysical or scientific, turn us away from them for a time, they come back upon us with irresistible force, showing to us through nature the influence of a free will, and teaching us that all living beings depend on one ever-acting creator and ruler.”
William Thomson (c.1900) (Ѻ)

“The Aristotelian viewpoint still prevails to some extent in biology, namely that an animal moves only for a purpose, either to seek food or to seek its mate or to undertake something else connected with preservation of the individual or the race. The Aristotelians had explained the process in the inanimate world in the same teleological way. Science began when Galileo overthrew this Aristotelian mode of thought and introduced the method of quantitative experiments which leads to mathematical laws free form the metaphysical conception of purpose. The analysis of animal conduct only becomes scientific in so far as it drops the question of purpose and reduces the reactions of animals to quantitative laws.”
Jacques Loeb (1918), Forced Movements, Tropisms, and Animal Conduct

“The causality of history is teleological.”
Alfred Kroeber (1915), “Eighteen Professions” [1]

Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he’s unwilling to be seen with her in public.”
John Haldane (c.1930s), supposedly, a requote of something said in the 1880s by Ernst Brucke [2]

“Frequent unqualified references to the principle of minimum entropy production, [are] quite often used to bolster teleological arguments.”
— Irvin Richardson (1968) [3]

“External teleology is dead in biology.”
— John Wilkins (1997), “Evolution and Philosophy: Is There Progress and Direction in Evolution? (Ѻ)

“Fundamental teleology is a dead option in physics and chemistry.”
— John Hawthorne and Daniel Nolan (2005), Bellingham Summer Philosophy Conference [4]

“In sociology, the terms of the debate have since been fundamentally and irreversibly changed, whatever it should be replaced by, teleology is now dead, whether in Hobhouse’s whiggish version of cumulative moral progress, or in Marx’s version of an inevitable dialectic leading from feudalism through capitalism to communism, or, for that matter, in the neo-Spencerian version of cumulative ‘modernization’, or in Weber’s version of inexorable technical rationalization and spiritual disenchantment.”
— Walter Runciman (2005), “Introduction to British Sociology” (Ѻ)

See also
Teleonomic entropy
Terrence Deacon

1. Kroeber, Alfred L. (1915). “Eighteen Professions” (pdf), Read at the Philadelphia meeting of the American Anthropological Association; in: American Anthropologist, 17(2):283-88.
2. (a) Cannon, Walter. (1945). The Way of the Investigator (pg. 108). W.W. Norton & Co.
(b) Goodman, Lenn E. (2010). Creation and Evolution (Haldane, pgs. 144, 192). Taylor and Francis.
(c) Deacon, Terrence W. (2011). Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter (pgs. 107, 557). W.W. Norton & Co.
3. Richardson, Irvin W. (1969). “On the Principle of Minimum Entropy Production” (abs), Letter to Editor, Biophysical Journal, 9(2): 265-267.
4. Hawthorne, John and Nolan, Daniel. (2005). “What Would Teleological Causation Be?” (pdf), Bellingham Summer Philosophy Conference.
5. Lindsay, Robert B. (1983). “Social Exemplifications of Physical Principles” (Ѻ) (pdf); in: Old and New Questions in Physics, Cosmology, Philosophy, and Theoretical Biology: Essays in Honor of Wolfgang Yourgrau (editor: Alwyn Merwe) (§B7:647-58; pedagogical value, pg. 648). Plenum Press.
6. Weiss, Albert P. (1925). A Theoretical Basis of Human Behavior (pg. 75). R.G. Adams & Co, 1929.

Further reading
● Samuelson, Paul. (1965). “Causality and Teleology in Economics”, The Hayden Colloquium on Scientific Method and Concept; in: The Collected Scientific Papers of Paul A. Samuelson, Volume 3 (pg. 444). MIT Press, 1972.

External links
Teleology – Wikipedia.

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