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What Darwin, Freud and Marx all did was to rewrite the view of history, in Biological, Pshycological and Economical terms – by writing out teleology of the equation and applying constant change and struggle in order to explain the seeming “Directedness” of reality. Hegels dialectic view of history, which was basically teleological, has been the greatest catalyst of the 19th century as many thought it didn’t match the evidence and thus necessitated a change.
Thus Teleology became almost extinct in philosophical circles and it was replaced by the view that the goal of existence was a meaningless question – for what possible goal could a completely physical system be directed towards? Some have said that the laws of thermodynamics are basically teleological in nature and thus explains for our every-day experience of teleology – but that seems to me to be a misunderstanding of what a law of nature is. For two reasons.
i) If a law is written into the fabric of existence like software into a code – then one is indeed correct in suspecting that that code needs a coder. I am quite convinced that this view of a scientific law is wrong – since I think a law is more like the best mathematial estimate of the states of a physical system. They would be or like habits than laws.
ii) If a law is indeed habit-like and not so much a law as a mathematical description of space, time and objects in movement then there is no way the laws of thermodynamics can in any way be teleological as they are merely descriptions – not prescriptive laws.
For many reasons I think that consciousness is impossible to understand without a theory of teleology – there are few things we are more certain of than our own directedness – and thus we once more point out the problem of consciousness in a completely physical system. Consciousness and matter seems to be different in kind and not merely in complexity.
The atheist/theist debates of today seem to me to hinge on this question – but even as I disagree with atheists about the nonsensical nature of the Telos, I also disagree with theists who use the nature of Teleology as a sign of Gods perfect goodness.
Looking around the world I think one must by necessity be a Schopenhaurian pessimist. “If a God has made this world, then I would not like to be the God; it’s misery and distress would break my heart” – Arthur Schopenhauer
The Telos of existence seems to me to be understandable only as the result of a very powerful (but not omnipotent) being acting within already given laws to make the best he can – and if he had true empathy he would have had to anguish for a long time before bringing everything into existence. Otherwise – the pain of the world is unforgivable.