“Telos” means purpose or goal, not intent. Aristotle analyzed causality in terms of the form of a type of thing. The form isn’t an abstract ideal, as in Plato, but a potential to be fully actualized, to achieve the purpose or the good for that type. Thus, heavy things like rocks belong closer to the center of the Earth, while light things like feathers or the clouds belong higher up. Things needn’t fulfill their potential; nevertheless, they’re supposed to in so far as they’re members of their type.

Of course, Darwin explained what’s really going on with that sort of fulfillment of potential in the case of biology. That teleology applies to life forms but not really to nonliving ones (because natural selection simulates intelligence design). Mind you, Lee Smolin and other physicists talk about evolving universes in the multiverse, and cosmologists speak of “stellar nurseries” in star formation. Without panpsychism or mysticism, those are analogies.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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