Aristotle created the argument for the theory that is called teleology, and he looked at it through many of his works.
He describes the “highest good” that can be applied to all things, especially to natural objects including living and non-living. This was shown in his book on ethics, which is title “Nicomachean Ethics.” He also talks about the highest good, with is the final cause or end that happens in everything. This final cause is the last of four causes that are part of his theory. These four causes are discussed in his work “Physics.” He determines that the end goal of everything is to answer the questions about what the thing is for. When something has come to that end, it has reached its goal. Aristotle wasn’t complete in his analysis of teleology, and it is possible that he reached a dead end in its analysis. Others, however, see it as being complete. Deontology will also be discussed in this essay. It discusses the idea that some choices can’t be justified by the effects that they have, (Alexander, 2012). Each of these theories will be described, before directly comparing them. Teleology takes a more logical approach to the existence of God, while Anselm becomes too passionate in the religious ties of God that he fails to create a logical argument for God’s existence.
Teleology is the idea of the final causes of existence that is in everything, and this is especially true when talking about natural things that are either inanimate or living. When discussing ancient teleology, the good, as Aristotle states, is the end that all things aim to be. “It has been established that according to Aristotle all things have an end or goal whatever that may be, and he defined that end as the good; however, the term good here is relative because everything is not going to have the same ultimate end,” (Pennington, 2011). That statement is one of the reasons why teleology is not considered a philosophical dead end by many people. Even though the object that Aristotle is talking about comes to an end of existence, there is no reason to not also look at the philosophical theory based on the fact that there is the end of existence for the subject that is being discussed. But it does leave others wondering why there is this purpose in all things, and why that purpose is over when the object comes to an end.
When discussed in the medieval sense of the word, teleology discusses that the goal of everything is determined by God. This explanation was vastly criticized by early philosophers and modern science. It was during this time where the theory was mostly applied to organic things, whereas inanimate objects were considered in ancient theories to be included in the definition of teleology, (Bunnin, 2004). Another category of teleology is utilitarianism, which centers around the idea of doing whatever action results in the largest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people. Utilitarianism falls into the category of teleology because it looks at what has happened or will happen following an action, (Teleological Ethics).
Deontological theories are based on duty. The morality that is involved with these theories is based on fulfilling obligations or duties. These duties require people to do or not do acts in the mission to uphold the law or rule. This rule is determined independent from the result, (White). This is in contrast to teleology, particularly the association that it has with utilitarianism. In utilitarianism, a person doesn’t need to regard a rule that should blindly be applied in all situations. Instead, it is necessary to make a decision based on the idea of whether the outcome of that decision will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people. For example, in deontology, lying would be considered wrong. But when taken on a case by case basis, teleology would consider lying to be good if it is of benefit to society as a whole. This can be taken further to say the degree of the lie is determines which lie to tell. For example, if a person says that tells a lie to say that there is no comet ready to impact the earth (but there truly is), or say that there is a comet, but it won’t kill everyone, (but it will), then what will cause the least amount of suffering will be considered the right lie to tell. Lying to the people by saying that there is no comet coming to destroy humanity would limit the fear that would be caused by saying a comet is coming and everyone should move to the eastern hemisphere, for example.
Many philosophers believe that deontology doesn’t allow for the nuances that happen in life. The theory lays down a blind rule and there is no consideration for the good that could come out of breaking that rule. “The rightness or wrongness of a moral rule is determined independent of its consequences or how happiness or pleasure is distributed as a result of abiding by that rule, or not abiding by it,” (White). This is perhaps most explicitly explained with the reference to natural law theory of deontological tradition. The theory comes not only from a command from God, but also in what have been deemed the “facts” of human nature. In applying these “facts,” it is assumed that moral goodness is found by applying the so-called natural facts. The natural laws that deontology is based on the command of God, though it has also been created from the secular humanism in the western application of the theory. Evolutionary biology has also played a role in its application. That Kantian theory, as it relates to deontology, is in line with the western philosophy deontological ethical theory. This is based largely on Immanuel Kant’s theories. Specifically, it comes from his work “Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.” Kant’s form is the more secular version and it is more accepted than the theory that is related to God.
In his work, Kant argues that morality isn’t just possible where there is a community of people who have the attributes that are natural, such as free will and rationality. Based on this knowledge, a person can’t be held accountable for their actions unless they are aware of what they are doing is right or wrong. If there is no understanding of right and wrong then they are free from the application of the theory. Kant is skeptical about whether people actually do function in a rational way and whether they actually do have free will, (White). When relating this to teleology, the theory would assume that people don’t have free will, because they have a function on the Earth and they are in existence until that function is met. Once a person is dead, they have fulfilled the role that they have been put on the planet to play. Deontology in Kant’s application, has left out whether there is free will. This makes applying morality difficult, and makes the practise of creating rules about morality, lacking meaning. As Kant put it, morality is not a possibility without having rationality and free will.
In conclusion, both teleological and deontological theories are types of moral theory. They usually have different ideas about morality, and often they are conflicting in their answers to the basic questions of morality. The main ingredient that separates these two theories is the idea of rules. Teleology doesn’t have a system of absolute rules to follow, but deontology does, and this makes these two theories very different from each other. The judgement of whether something is right or whether it is wrong is based on the behavior or the result of the behavior. In teleology, the result of the behavior is used to judge whether something is good or bad, and in deontology, the behavior itself is used to gauge whether something is good or bad. There are also different divisions of each of these theories and this is usually centered around them being tied to God and being secular.
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