The Nature and Challenge of Teleological Psychological Theory

  • Joseph F. Rychlak


Teleological theory is shown to rely upon final causation, which in turn also makes use of formal-cause patternings as the ‘that’ for the sake of which events are being intended. In the rise of science over the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the belief crystallized that it was possible to explain events by reducing them to underlying material and efficient causation. Cartesian mathematics made it appear that motion caused patterns to come about and hence was basic to patterns. Modern physics has changed all this, placing the formal cause at the center of explanation. The unseating of material and especially efficient causation in science makes it possible for psychology to formulate telic theory. Formal causation is germane to meaning, and human beings can be seen to behave for the sake of such meaningful patterns. Mechanism is shown to be an instrumentality rather than a basic cause of behavior. Logical learning theory is presented as an example of telic theorizing. It is argued that unless psychology meets the challenge of teleological description it will never emerge as a distinctive area of study with a unique contribution to the family of the sciences.


Great Book Teleological Explanation Efficient Causation Formal Causation Cartesian Geometry 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph F. Rychlak
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLoyola University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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