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Causality in which the effect is explained by an end (Greek, telos) to be realized. Teleology thus differs essentially from efficient causality, in which an effect is dependent on prior events. Aristotle's account of teleology declared that a full explanation of anything must consider its final causethe purpose for which the thing exists or was produced. Following Aristotle, many philosophers have conceived of biological processes as involving the operation of a guiding end. Modern science has tended to appeal only to efficient causes in its investigations. See alsomechanism.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on teleology, visit Britannica.com.