Purpose

Purpose is central to a good life.

Pursuing a career, raising a family, devotion to a vocation (job), and acquiring wealth are perhaps the most widespread long-term purposes that make life meaningful. Service to others and helping the needy are also often cited.

Purpose is similar to teleology¹, the idea that design and purpose are implicit in all living organisms. Until the modern age, philosophy followed Aristotle’s depiction of a teleological cosmos in which all things had a final purpose, (namely, to realize their implicit perfection).

Most modern philosophers of science have reversed the idea of purpose being inherent in nature. For instance, they do not consider the purpose of an eye as being “in order to see.” Rather, material cause-and-effect processes are credited with bringing about the eye organ as a function of chance and natural selection.

The difference is similar to that between a cause pushing from behind (i.e., movements of billiard balls) and a cause pulling from ahead (i.e., the movement of a growing plant seeking light). Teleology or purpose helps us to understand that living things fulfill a purpose established by design at Creation. The richest understanding of this idea is found in traditional Christianity.

Purpose is foundational to human life, to social organization and to business. No one goes into business without a purpose. Thus, the clarification of purpose is the most powerful engine of success known. Purpose is the foundation of all planning.


1Teleology: The doctrine of the final causes of things; specif. (Biol.), the doctrine of design, which assumes that the phenomena of organic life, particularly those of evolution, are explicable only by purposive causes, and that they in no way admit of a mechanical explanation or one based entirely on biological science; the doctrine of adaptation to purpo

 

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