What Is Telos, What Does It Mean?July 2, 2021
Goal. Anaxagoras was the first thinker who brought the idea of Telos to philosophy. Anaxagoras of Clazomenae (500-428) thought that the universe was formed according to a telos, so he called the principle that formed the universe nous (us) because it had an intellectual function. This concept was later developed by various Greek thinkers and especially by Aristotle. Aristotle’s famous concept of entelecheia, meaning having a purpose in itself, is derived from the root telos.
The concept later became the epitome of all idealistic philosophy. Until recently, even in the field of science, the relation of causality (cause-effect) was dominant instead of the relation of purpose (cause-target). The dependence and legality between all natural phenomena and events have been tried to be explained with Aristotle’s understanding of telos. According to this understanding, all natural objects carry their purpose within them and are shaped according to this purpose; In inanimate nature this is an unconscious goal that develops all objects towards a certain purpose. For example, Thomas Aquino, Leibniz, Hegel, Heidegger etc. they continued this Aristotelian teleological understanding.
There is a gaping distinction between the materialist and scientific understanding of causality and the idealist and non-scientific understanding of teleology: causality explains the question of how an object came into existence, while teleology seeks to explain why (for what purpose) it came into being, and therefore a superior reason (i.e., God’s) which determines the ends in nature. ) requires its presence. However, it was proved by Darwin that there are objective reasons for purposefulness in nature and that this purposefulness consists of adapting to the environment in the most favorable way. Changes in the animal and plant world consist of their interaction with the changing conditions of life. Changes that are beneficial to the organism (that is, changes that help that organism adapt to the environment and survive) are separated and preserved by natural selection, are inherited, passed from generation to generation, and bring about the phenomenon of adaptation to the environment called the purposefulness of the organism. The formation according to pre-planned supernatural purposes in the teleological understanding is completely a product of imagination. Engels mocks the teleological understanding: “Cats were created to eat rats, rats for cats to eat. The whole of nature was created to be a witness to this wisdom of the creator.”