Medical Definition of Teleology

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Reviewed on 10/30/2018

Teleology: The study of the ultimate purpose of the design of something in nature.

For example, "what is the true purpose of the nose?" is a teleological question and, to say that all evolutionary changes occur for a definite purpose is a teleological explanation of evolution.

"Teleology" comes from ancient Greek roots but it (and teleological) did not enter English until the 18th century. It is a compound of the Greek "tele-, telos," meaning "end or purpose" + the ending "logos" meaning "the science or study of" = the study of the ends or purposes.

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Reviewed on 10/30/2018