a: the study of evidences of design in nature b: a doctrine (as in vitalism) that ends are immanent in nature c: a doctrine explaining phenomena by final causes
: the fact or character attributed to nature or natural processes of being directed toward an end or shaped by a purpose
: the use of design or purpose as an explanation of natural phenomena
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.