What is an example of a teleological argument in history?


I know “What is teleology” has been asked, but I really need an example so I can understand. Honestly, some of the answers on the other posts are still too complicated for me… so maybe explain like I’m a really dumb 5-year-old?

In: 11

Say there is a kid doing wild maneuvers on a skateboard in a dangerous place. There is an accident and the kid is hurt. You then say “That ought to have taught him a lesson”. ELI5: this is teleology – ascribing a purpose “taught him a lesson” to an outcome “the accident”.

Of course, from a non teleological viewpoint there is no such purpose to the outcome (in this example). There was an accident that was the result of dangerous actions.

Teleology (literally “the explanation of goals”) is essentially the philosophy of figuring out the “why” questions, and discovering the root cause of something.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle broke down all teleological questions into four categories:

* **Material causes:** This deals with the substance of something that exists in the physical world. *Why does that table exist? Because it’s made of wood.*

* **Formal causes:** This deals with the abstract concept or essence of something. *Why does that table exist? Because a designer planned how it would look.*

* **Efficient/Agent causes:** This deals with the chain of events that lead to something’s physical existence. *Why does that table exist? Because a carpenter built it.*

* **Final cause:** This deals with all the heavy stuff about purpose and meaning. *Why does that table exist? Because someone needed somewhere to eat their dinner.*

Over time, teleology became increasingly associated with theology. This is best exemplified in Thomas Aquinas’s five proofs for God’s existence, especially numbers 2 and 5:

* Proof #2, or the argument of the first cause, says that everything has a preceding cause. But everything is finite in existence. Therefore, there is either an infinite precession of finite causes (not possible), or there was a first cause of everything that was not bound by finitude.

* Proof #5, or the argument of the final cause, says that there are a lot of things in this universe, even things that don’t have any life or sapience, following clearly defined natural paths and cycles. Clearly, *something* must have set all these things to follow these paths.

Consider the idea that music “gets better over time.” When you study Western music history, you can have that sensation, because very old music sounds strange and rather plain, then increases in harmonic richness and sophistication. (I’m ignoring the 20th century for simplicity haha).

Looking back, it’s easy to believe that music evolved in a particular direction to “get better,” but it doesn’t really work that way. Newer music builds on older music, but there isn’t a fixed definition of “good” that it’s moving toward; that target is always moving for people and could have played out a number of different ways had the circumstances changed.

The idea that there’s an “ideal” that history is moving us toward is a teleological perspective.

Look at the US doctrine of Manifest Destiny. It takes as an axiom that “It is right and proper for the U.S.A. to annex all land westward to the ocean because that is what that land is _for_.” Pure teleological argument.

Currently reading [The Courage to Be Disliked](https://www.amazon.com/Courage-Be-Disliked-Phenomenon-Happiness/dp/1501197274) – the whole book is a dialogue between a young man and a philosopher that goes through good examples and explanations of teleology and etiology, Adler and Freud etc. I recommend to read it or search for some paragraphs.