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A telos (from the Greek τέλος for “end”, “purpose”, or “goal”) is an end or purpose, in a fairly constrained sense used by philosophers such as Aristotle. It is the root of the term “teleology“, roughly the study of purposiveness, or the study of objects with a view to their aims, purposes, or intentions. Teleology figures centrally in Aristotle’s biology and in his theory of causes. It is central to nearly all philosophical theories of history, such as those of Hegel and Marx. One running debate in modern philosophy of biology is to what extent teleological language (as in the “purposes” of various organs or life-processes) is unavoidable, or is simply a shorthand for ideas that can ultimately be spelled out non teleologically. Philosophy of action also makes essential use of teleological vocabulary: on Davidson‘s account, an action is just something an agent does with an intention—that is, looking forward to some end to be achieved by the action.
In contrast to telos, techne is the rational method involved in producing an object or accomplishing a goal or objective; however, the two methods are not mutually exclusive in principle.
In terms of his ethics Aristotle believed in the excellence of philosophical contemplation and virtuous actions stemming from virtuous persons (i.e. virtuous actions are what the person with wisdom would choose because what is good is obvious to such a person). In terms of the material world he believed that organisms continually moved from imperfect to perfect states in a teleological development, the perfect being innate within the imperfect (E.g a seed becomes a plant, an embryo becomes a baby which becomes an adult). Thus the essence of something is found in the form into which it has grown (its potential has become actualised which leads to higher forms (Evolution?). Thus, ‘What determined a thing’s nature was what counted as its successful operation: its achieving what is good for it to achieve’ (Honerdich p. 56). Humans are organised to live a certain way and the rest of their nature is so organised as to be able to achieve this goal.
In this way Aristotle believed the essential nature of things lay not at their cause (or beginning) but at their end (telos).
Source: Aristotle (384-322 BCE) (anonymous).