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Aristotle's Teleology

In his zoological research Aristotle set forth his teleological view of nature— that is, he believed organisms developed as they did because they had a natural goal ( telos 1 in Greek), or what we might call an end or a function. To explain a phenomenon, Aristotle said that one must discover its goal— to understand “that for the sake of which” the phenomenon in question existed. A simple example of this kind of explanation is the duck's webbed feet. According to Aristotle's reasoning, ducks have webbed feet for the sake of swimming, an activity that supports the goal of a duck's existence, which is to find food in the water so as to stay alive. Aristotle argued that the natural goal of human beings2 was to live in the society of a polis and that the city-state came into existence to meet the human need to live together, since individuals living in isolation cannot be self-sufficient. Furthermore, existence in a city-state made possible an orderly life of virtue for its citizens. The means to achieve this ordered life were the rule of law and the process of citizens' ruling and being ruled in turn.

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