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Intrinsic and Extrinsic Teleology: Their Irrelevance to Aquinas's Fifth Way and to Paley's Argument from Design

by Marie George

Edward Feser (along with many other Thomists) maintains that the distinction between having an intrinsic tendency to an end as opposed to a tendency to an end imposed from without is crucial to understanding Aquinas’s Fifth Way. (Feser calls the former “immanent teleology” and the latter “extrinsic teleology").

In this essay, Marie George argues that this position is incorrect by examining the two syllogisms that compose the Fifth Way.  She then briefly considers whether “extrinsic teleology” is essential to Paley’s argument from design, by examining this argument stated in its strongest form.  The article concludes that it is counterproductive to read “extrinsic teleology” into what would otherwise be an argument for God’s existence worthy of further consideration.

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