Definition of teleology in English:



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

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Rather, he is presenting an emerging ethical alternative that favors individual preference over goods conceived in concrete social networks and immutable teleologies of life.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Pragmatism in ethics is often regarded as a form of teleology or consequentialism.’
    1. 1.1Theology The doctrine of design and purpose in the material world.
      • ‘Without some teleology, there is no flourishing and no future for the human community.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It is a model that applies both a human and a divine teleology through Thomas's hallmark ethics of natural law.’
      • ‘This portrays a loose teleology, a soft concept of creation, one that permits genuine, though not ultimate, integrity and autonomy in the creatures.’
      • ‘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).