Definition of teleology in English:



  • 1The explanation of phenomena by the purpose they serve rather than by postulated causes.

    • ‘Pragmatism in ethics is often regarded as a form of teleology or consequentialism.’
    • ‘But on this larger scale, suspicion about metanarratives of progress is still appropriate, particularly where these involve teleologies.’
    • ‘Rather, it points to natural developmental teleologies in children's lives that child-rearing should take into account.’
    • ‘Rather, he is presenting an emerging ethical alternative that favors individual preference over goods conceived in concrete social networks and immutable teleologies of life.’
    • ‘Not only do his detailed accounts describe competing constructions of black subjectivity, but they also prescribe particular roles and developmental teleologies for black culture and political consciousness.’
    1. 1.1 The doctrine of design and purpose in the material world.
      • ‘Unbounded design or contingent teleology occurs when the end-state is not specifically predetermined, but rather is the result of selection of one from among several available alternatives.’
      • ‘This portrays a loose teleology, a soft concept of creation, one that permits genuine, though not ultimate, integrity and autonomy in the creatures.’
      • ‘It is a model that applies both a human and a divine teleology through Thomas's hallmark ethics of natural law.’
      • ‘Without some teleology, there is no flourishing and no future for the human community.’
      • ‘Thus the appearance of teleology by itself is not sufficient to infer intelligent design.’


Mid 18th century (denoting the branch of philosophy that deals with ends or final causes): from modern Latin teleologia, from Greek telos ‘end’ + -logia (see -logy).