Teleology or finality is a reason or explanation for something in function of its end, purpose, or goal. Contemporary philosophers and scientists are still discussing whether teleological axioms are useful or accurate in proposing modern philosophies and scientific theories.
In western philosophy, the term and concept of teleology originated in the writings of Plato and Aristotle. Aristotle’s Four Causes give special place to each thing’s telos or “final cause. In this, he followed Plato in seeing purpose in both human and sub-human nature. In the Phaedo, Plato through Socrates argues that true explanations for any given physical phenomenon must be teleological. Imagine not being able to distinguish the real cause, from that without which the cause would not be able to act, as a cause.
That is why one man surrounds the earth with a vortex to make the heavens keep it in place, another makes the air support it like a wide lid. Plato here argues that while the materials that compose a body are necessary conditions for its moving or acting in a certain way, they nevertheless cannot be the sufficient condition for its moving or acting as it does. Democritus, however, neglecting the final cause, reduces to necessity all the operations of nature. Now, they are necessary, it is true, but yet they are for a final cause and for the sake of what is best in each case. In the Physics Aristotle rejected Plato’s assumption that the universe was created by an intelligent designer using eternal forms as his model.
It is absurd to suppose that ends are not present because we do not see an agent deliberating. Nothing in the body is made in order that we may use it. What happens to exist is the cause of its use. Since the Novum Organum of Francis Bacon, teleological explanations in physical science tend to be deliberately avoided in favor of focus on material and efficient explanations.