Two thoughts on telos

I shall, in this piece, examine two curiosities.

1. Different senses of ‘telos’; if any?

2. Would I want to believe in a teleology?

Curiosity the first

1.1 In a previous post, we were considering the different ways in which the notion of explanatory rationalism, or the principle of sufficient reason. Another way that I could frame this issue as contrasted to the previous post, is to ask: how many ways can we cash out an answer to when someone says “everything happens for a reason”?

1.2 In a way, addressing the issue of telos is one way of trying to cash out this phrase. Or rather, a similar thought. I may try to understand telos as a way of cashing out an answer to the question: how do I cash out an justification to when someone uses the expression “there is an order to things”.

1.3 Telos may be separated into terms of:

i. Design

ii. Order

What is distinct about these two terms? Design is suggestive of explicit, and intended utility. Order, is a matter of a process of discovery, independent of reference to a designer.

1.31 We may say that a watch has design, but not order. A watch has design insofar as we legitimately infer that there were people who made it as the precondition of its existence.

1.32 We may say that a discourse in mathematics has an order. Say, for example, that thigns arithmetic may have certain mapping relations to another discourse; or, that some physical phenomenon is uniform. So here, we may go towards some notion of symmetry.

1.34 How may these two notions be different? Michael’s first thought is that design is a stronger, exclusive notion, wherein� order is a weaker, inclusive notion; the latter is inclusive and weaker insofar as it is ambivalent towards the issue of a designer. If, say, we find there is design in the human body, we may make a design inference, but if we refutte at the start that there could be design, or that design can be explained elsewhere, we may still maintain the notion of order that a design intuition has.

1.35 Another way to slice the difference between order and design: while the latter maintains it is impossible to be designer agnostic, the former is designer ambivalent.

1.4 Why should I explicit two notions of telos? Well, Kant points out, that on the one hand, we find a useful explanandum by an appeal to telos; it helps when we say that a bird’s beak is designed or ordered such that it helps in its default habitat; we want to hold to this intuitive use of language, but we don’t want to move from explanandum to explanans, positing nomic relations ,or making ontic commitments in relation to design. I admit perhaps this distinction doesn’t really hit upon an answer; but I’m wonder why Kant made the error in the Third Critique; or supposed error in making going further beyond the telos intuition towards a metaphysical claim. I have addressed Kant very bluntly here, to which I also apologise.

Shall I put it another way? We don’t seem to have gotten rid of teleological explanation in our intuitive langauge, and also, in our moral reasoning. We assume that there is some dynamic where good actions are linked to praise, and desert, where bad actions are linked to derision and punishment. Just look around the world; and this is far from the truth. We seem to have a moral telos; which may be a linguistic remnant of our Christian heritage…or some genuine intuition that we have highlighted. I favour the former answer, but the latter deserves to be exhausted completely before we make a commitment.

Curiosity the second

2. Do I want to believe in an order? That is, the question I pose.

2.1 The most poignant way in which I want there to be an order is in respect to moral conduct. As said before, our moral calculi links good acts to praiseworthy acts, and good acts to desert. So, a good act, like saving a life, may be seen as praiseworthy, we may say “well done!” to them, and we may desert them also, perhaps by giving them a reward, a hearty handshake, or a medal.



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