A brief discussion of “telos” from my dissertation


The question of “teleology” is the question of end-directed behavior. Does nature pursue ends? Is nature fundamentally directionless? Is the appearance of direction supervenient upon mechanical laws and random chance?

In the second chapter of my dissertation, I address this question

It’s helpful to examine the many meanings of telos. It doesn’t just mean “goal”:

The Greek word ‘telos’ is commonly translated as “end,” but it is bursting with an array of possible meanings, including: “definite point,” “goal,” “purpose,” “cessation,” “order,” “prize,” “highest point,” “realization,” “decision,” and “services.”

Strong fills out this already rich picture with a wider array of related meanings from the Koine Greek: “from a primary (to set out for a definite point or goal); properly, the point aimed at as a limit, i.e. (by implication) the conclusion of an act or state (termination (literally, figuratively or indefinitely), result (immediate, ultimate or prophetic), purpose); specially, an impost or levy (as paid); continual, custom, end(-ing), finally, uttermost.”

See Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, (Harper & Brothers, 1896). And the updated ed. La Habra: Lockman Foundation, 1995. Entry 5056.