Telos, Contigent or Unconditional

Sweet Talk hasn’t been around for very long and already I’ve offended someone as famous as Heraclitus. We are living the dream, achieving our telos over here.

After reading this interesting post on process vs substance philosophies and the role of each in biology, I came back around to thinking about David’s post.

I would never think to know of a telos (mine or anyone else’s) in some complete, universal sense of the word. But it does seem to me that we can grasp at something more contingent, historical; of the moment and the circumstances, in short.

Process philosophies, of which Heraclitus is the great grandfather (but don’t call him a philosopher, he doesn’t like that) seem to me to be true in some universal, unconditional way. There are these grand processes of which everything about us merely constitute a moment or sum of moments in time. But substance philosophies are more useful within the window of those moments. Within that time window, I have been equipped with eyes which observe things that my brain interprets as discrete things that I need to make decisions in relation to. Taxonomies of these things can be useful for informing those decisions, but we needn’t fall into essentialism and think there is something like a Platonic form behind the categories in these taxonomies.

Purpose, or purposes, for a human life, can be substantive in that sense and that sense only. And as with everything human we do not look upon such a thing without filters; something like a telos does not exist in any concrete way without an ethical framework within which it is coherent. And such frameworks are themselves merely eddies in Heraclitus’ river.

7 thoughts on “Telos, Contigent or Unconditional

  1. Telos as ‘final cause’ would be sort of like the hypothetical end point to which a river flows. Telos therefore doesn’t ‘exist’ in the same way the end of a river doesn’t have to exist, it could just become more river. For discursive purposes we still need to posit a “down stream” to help talk about the direction of flow, but if you go looking for it, ‘down steams’ is always out of reach. Cultivating virtuous habits etc may be a bit like adjusting the gradient of a hill to affect the flow, with reference to a newly extrapolated downstream.

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