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  Teleology is, literally, Greek for the study of ends, goals or purposes. In philosophy, certain phenomena can be explained in terms of their ends, goals or purposes. Plants grow roots with the aim of absorbing water and minerals from the earth. Animals flee with the purpose of avoiding danger. People drive to supermarkets because their goal is to get food. Each of these explanations are teleological, explaining phenomena in terms of their goals or purposes.

Teleological explanations, explanations in terms of attaining a goal in the future, contrast with explanations in terms of prior causes. But teleological explanations do not exclude explanation in terms of prior causes. Animals flee with the purpose of avoiding danger, but their behaviour also has a prior cause their fear. AJ

Further reading J.L. Mackie, The Cement of the Universe.



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