As purpose (veraltend Behuf [a. D. MHG behuof ] Greek τέλος [ telos ], also ἕνεκα [ hou Heneka ] Latin finis , English purpose ), the motive ( latin movens ) of a targeted activity or behavior understood.
The goal ( Greek telos ) as an occasion for an action is referred to as the purpose or final cause ( Latin causa finalis ). In the aim or purpose associated with the formulation of the aim, a distinction must be made between
- an idea of the effect of the targeted action,
- striving to make this goal a reality beyond the mere idea or imagination and
- the imagination of a means to achieve the stated goal.
A distinction is made between the following steps in achieving the goal (achievement of the purpose):
- the idea of an effect,
- the activation of a cause or agent and
- the occurrence of an effect or the realization of the purpose. ( Friedrich Kirchner , Carl Michaëlis)
A purpose is thus defined in its causal relationships and is dependent on a will that calculates the purpose and realization . In this causality, the end precedes the chosen means - that between end and effect - followed by the effect or the goal. So whoever wants the end must also want the "appropriate" means. For Immanuel Kant , the purpose in the introduction to the Critique of Judgment is therefore “the concept of an object, provided that it also contains the reason for the reality of this object”. In this sense, the realization of an end is always a causal process that is finally determined and determines the usefulness of the means.
In causal terms, the end is the result of cause and effect. If, on the other hand, purpose is considered immanent in consciousness, i.e. in anticipation in consciousness and not as an external effect, it presents itself as the result of a teleological order of means and ends, as evidence of an assumed finality in which the expediency is determined by a goal-oriented development process. Basically there is no contradiction between causality and teleology, as only the focus of observation is shifted. Either a development is understood as the result of cause and effect, or as a necessary movement towards a predetermined goal of metaphysical origin, a telos.
This goal setting is therefore dependent on a consciousness that determines itself and other purposes, whereby this activity is transferred to a pattern of purpose setting in general and a world outside of consciousness. The different epochs of the history of philosophy and science are characterized by these movements of transference, or by a defense against them.
The concept of purpose in ancient philosophy
Anaxagoras was the first in antiquity to introduce a mind that shapes the world into philosophy. However, here the world is not yet organized according to a teleological pattern. Socrates, on the other hand, justifies the expediency of the world in an anthropocentric manner , as the Stoics later also do, by relating the purpose hidden in the world order to man and his actions. For Plato , the functional design of the world is laid out in the idea and the matter , so that every development must follow these necessities acting there almost automatically ( Timaeus , Philebos ).
However, decisive for the development of the concept of purpose in the history of philosophy and science is Aristotle , who counts the purpose cause among the principles of things and basically differentiates between four causes (αἴτια [ aitia ]):
- what becomes something (ἔξ ὧν [ ex hon ]),
- what is it according to the shape or the pattern (τί ἦν εἶναι [ ti en einai ]),
- where does it start from (ἔξ οὗ [ ex hou ]) and
- for what purpose is something (οὗ ἕνεκα [ hou heneka ]) ( Metaphysics , Book V., Chap. 2; 1013a).
Aristotle also assumes a teleological development, because the purpose, which is one with the form of things, determines their development out of things, their becoming in reality from an inherent possibility. This purpose attached to things is their telos and so every “natural” development is appropriate and good, because nothing can happen in nature without a purpose. The ultimate purpose is God or the most beautiful and best, laid out in the principles and thus in the things themselves (Metaphysics, Book XII, Chapter 7; 1072b). The essence of things is expressed in their appearance and form and is at the same time the purpose and cause of becoming and development ( entelechy ). This development, however, can be hindered “by chance ” by matter , so that the functional cannot develop.
The "rediscovery" of the Aristotelian texts taking place in scholasticism is entirely under the sign of Christianity and looks for a philosophical foundation for Christian thought in the texts of antiquity. The confrontation with the Arab world that began at the end of the 12th century and beginning of the 13th century, especially in Spain, and its reading and commentary on the Aristotelian texts, is not without controversy and is suspiciously banned in Paris in 1210. However, the translations of the Greek texts from Arabic opened up a wealth of new knowledge in the Middle Ages, which the scholastic academic life could no longer be imagined without. Above all, however, it shows that Aristotle's metaphysics is ideally suited to justify the Christian expectation of salvation. However, the Aristotelian writings experience a necessary reinterpretation, which is already evident in their translations. The four causes of Aristotle are translated as causa materialis , causa movens (or: causa efficiens ), causa formalis and causa finalis , and it is precisely in the term causa finalis that the turn that the concept of purpose takes in Christian scholasticism is shown. In the theological discourse of the Middle Ages, the teleology of nature becomes the providence of a Creator who in his omniscience also knows the future. Christian eschatology , the doctrine of the ultimate things, finds in the concept of the causa finalis a philosophical justification of the teleological goal towards which everything develops. In the term “final cause”, on the one hand the causal and on the other hand the final determination is marked and towards this finis ultimus - as a cosmic universal principle - everything that is, consciously or unconsciously, moves out of its entelechy. This development is shaped as if a final purpose - like God's plan of salvation - retroactively becomes the cause of action. The expediency of the world is derived from the nature of God and the human being is at the center of this visible order. This establishes a tradition according to which everything that happens in the world is explained retrospectively from this point of view and which only comes to an end in terms of the history of science with Charles Darwin's theory of evolution .
It is this orientation towards a final purpose that is encountered in the various variants of the criticism of teleology in the theories of science . Even if Giordano Bruno still describes the expediency of the world, for the Renaissance such a well-founded teleology presents itself as a retroactive causa movens ( Stephen Toulmin ) and it is not surprising that the mathematical-mechanistic philosophies of the time based on causalities were such a justification of things and their development. The approaches of Francis Bacon , René Descartes and Baruch de Spinozas become prominent , while Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is still trying to combine a mechanistic worldview with that of teleology: La source de la mécanique est dans la métaphysique , according to which the principles for Leibniz of physics can not be derived from their laws, but have to refer to a higher intelligence.
For Immanuel Kant , the purposes are projected into the objects of observation and are “not part of the knowledge of the object”. Through this projection, the empirical laws of nature appear as if they were laid out by a higher understanding as they are, which is why an assumed natural purpose of things can only be a regulative concept for the power of judgment, but not a constitutive concept of reason. This regulative concept must endure as an element of reflective judgment, because for Kant the origin of things cannot be explained with mechanistic causes alone (Crit. D. Judgment, I. c. §77). The human being and nature exist in its “foundation for the metaphysics of morals” as an “end in itself” (Grundlg. Z. Met. D. Sitt. Para. 2). For German idealism , mechanism and teleology are united in a higher principle, which is why for Johann Gottlieb Fichte every organized product of nature is its own purpose, for Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling the usefulness of things is independent of the mechanism, and cause and effect in a simultaneity are united. For Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel the concept of purpose is a simple determinateness of things and is inherent in them.
The concept of purpose in ethics
With the special definition of the "final cause" in scholasticism as finis ultimus , an ethical question opens up in which the object is the focus of an action. The moral quality of an action is therefore dependent on this object and, from a teleological perspective, a hierarchy of ethical purposes is opened up, which is necessarily based on the distance to the end purpose determined in God. The acting subject is teleologically determined, but its freedom consists in the possibility of fulfilling the ends set by itself and others and the end purpose. For this reason there can be no adiaphora , no morally neutral value for such a definite subject , which should be treated indifferently, as in the Stoa , since everything is judged in relation to the one end purpose ( Thomas von Aquin , Sum. I / II, 18). The principle of the sanctification of the means by the end is therefore also incompatible with the teleological determinacy of the moral good, since the end is also valued in its distance from the causa causarum , the end of the ends. The resulting teleological ethics of purpose ensures the moral quality of the work and formulates what is good for the community, the bonum comune , as the core of every law (Thomas von Aquin, Sum. Th. I / II, 90). In this sense Aquinas opens up a distinction between the objective and the subjective purpose in order to be able to take into account the special circumstances of an action. However, the purpose of the action immanent towards the good and the subjective intention only coincide in the ideal case, whereby the hierarchy of purposes arises.
For Immanuel Kant, the human being is an end in itself and an end, whereby every ethic is linked to the human being and his will. As a result, the ethical objective objectivism of traditional morality no longer plays a role than the particular attitude that leads to an action is used to evaluate it. In Kant's teaching, ethical action is valued according to the categorical imperative , according to which one's own person and that of others should be treated “as an end, never just as a means”.
Since man acts out of his idea of the effect of his goal-oriented action, but can never have the right means in advance, since moral knowledge "basically does not have the precedence of teachable knowledge" ( Hans-Georg Gadamer ), that is moral Life as a whole is always just a design that arises in a network of ends and means and in which the human being, the end in itself, is the focus and thus influences the historical world.
The concept of purpose in the natural sciences
In biology , this is expressed primarily in the strict rejection of any final or teleological approach. One should not ask for what purpose the eye is built in this way, but only, as Ernst Mach is supposed to have said at the beginning of a lecture, ask about the causes, because the “scientific church” forbids this. To date, goals or purposes are only occasionally integrated into theoretical biology. Nevertheless, in the second half of the 19th century, biology formed the starting point for a change in the anti-metaphysical and anti-teleological approach to the concept of purpose in natural science , especially through its doctrine of the evolution of organisms. The focus of observation is on two problems that Aristotle did not address:
- how can the "appropriate" mechanisms of organic or physiological systems be explained and
- like the diversity of species?
In 1876, Claude Bernard had shown that systems of sufficiently high complexity are able to control goal or purpose-dependent processes and B. to ensure a situation-dependent regulation of body temperature in warm-blooded organisms. While Aristotle had assumed an invariable essence in living organisms, a being inherent in the species and thus made every possible development dependent on this fixed being, Charles Darwin , on the other hand, showed in 1859 that the origin and development of species and variations are to be explained in terms of the environment and a " follow natural “optimization process. Through the selection Darwin interprets development processes causally; with evolution, the selection always takes place afterwards. Since both are "unconscious" processes, the assumption of an all-controlling principle would have been obvious. However, since a mechanistically organized explanation of the world in physics cannot allow the cause-effect relationship to be reversed and the cause appearing after the effect, but at the same time no cosmic, controlling universal principle could be assumed, control processes in the system-environment relationship had to be accepted be accepted. In both examples it becomes clear that causal factors from outside the systems have an impact on their purpose-dependent processes and that these are controlled in a system-environment coupling. In such goal-oriented and finally determined processes - in the case of Bernard this is homeostasis , the regulation of an inner milieu , in the case of Darwin the optimal adaptation of the species to the environment achieved over generations - the purpose shows itself as the realization of a goal without a telos as a cosmological one Principle or a "retroactive causal relationship" must be assumed. To this connotation to avoid that is always associated with the concept of teleology since scholasticism, she called Stephen Toulmin as "telic" ( telic ), Colin S. Pittendrigh "as teleonomic " processes.
In the period between Darwin's and Bernard's discoveries and the beginnings of cybernetics in the 1940s, three areas of biological phenomena were identified that exhibit teleonomic processes:
- the homeostatic teleonomy of physiological systems,
- the programmed teleonomy of molecular controlled morphogenesis and
- the ecological teleonomy of natural selection .
A fourth well-known teleonomic process would be the conscious calculation and action of a person based on the anticipation of a goal. All of these processes are characterized by adaptive behavior in a system-environment relationship ( Humberto Maturana , Francisco J. Varela ). The discovery of the fundamental importance of adaptive-regulatory processes in relation of systems to their environment, however, have not only in the natural sciences paradigmatic had consequences, but also in the human sciences , the first in the person of Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons theory homeostatic interaction on applied social processes . Likewise, sociobiologists , following Konrad Lorenz , suggested adopting “genetically programmed” behaviors in the collective social behavior of individuals (Margery L. Oldfield and Janis B. Alcorn) and to explain cultural traditions and social institutions and their adaptation to changed Environmental conditions, evolutionary-optimizing processes based on Darwinism are assumed (Stephen Toulmin, 1978).
This development in terms of cause and purpose as well as their interpretation were significantly strengthened and expanded in the 20th century by findings in the field of physics and here especially in the field of quantum mechanics , cf. as far as interpretations of quantum mechanics .
Cybernetics, Systems Theory and Constructivism
While in mechanics it can be assumed that humans do not build machines without a purpose ( Gordon Pask ) and that this "purpose for something" is mapped as an inherent function in the machines, biology and cybernetics are about how an organism functions his behavior is directed towards a goal.
The question that arises in biology about the adaptive and purpose-related system-environment relationship of observed systems and the consequent changes that result from this relationship in the system and its environment are also at the core of cybernetic efforts to create control loops that make teleonomic processes more physiological , social and technical systems can be described. At the beginning of the “cybernetic movement” in 1943, Arturo Rosenblueth , Norbert Wiener and Julian Bigelow describe systems that relate to their environment in a purposeful manner as those that adaptively align their “behavior” to it via a feedback loop and call this behavior teleological. It becomes evident that a system that is adaptive to its environment must observe it - in whatever form - in order to be able to adapt its behavior and actions to it. The result of this observation is fed back to your own behavior. This feedback influences one's own actions and motivations, etc. U. significant, sometimes so much that there is a shift in motive or purpose. One then speaks of a heterogony of purposes ( Wilhelm Wundt ). Rosenblueth, Wiener and Bigelow describe the relationship between system and environment , which is adjusted by feedback, as one of the opposing influences: while the output of a system manipulates its environment, events in the environment as input change the system. If these changes in the environment do not lead to direct and structural changes to the system, the question arises as to how humans, who are structurally closed as an autopoietic system, can experience such changes in themselves through environmental events. Basically, this happens through the observation of the environment, oneself and through the comparison between the assumed goal of a behavior and the steps taken up to the point of observation. The authors describe this dynamic in the relationship between the system, the environment and the assumed goals as “negative feedback”, i.e. feedback that is intended to correct the behavior of a system in relation to its goal. This approach constitutes the historical basis of cybernetics. For Rosenblueth u. a. Such a feedback observation is the prerequisite for a purposeful and in their words “teleological” behavior. However, in order to be able to pursue a purpose in a changing environment in which the system determining the purpose also changes, it may be necessary to It may be necessary to make predictions about a future state or location of a target. An example of such an extrapolating target tracking is the cat that catches a mouse, but does not jump to the current location of the mouse in the observation, but to an anticipated future one. Such purpose-related behavior thus makes use of a prediction of a simple order. However, if the system itself experiences changes while it is pursuing its purpose, a prediction of at least the 2nd order is necessary, since its own changes in relation to the purpose must be incorporated into the extrapolation. The same also applies in the event that external objects are used by the system in order to achieve its purpose. For example, if you throw a stone in order to hit the mouse, the movement of the mouse must also be taken into account. According to Rosenbleuth et al. a. Man is distinguished from other living beings by the ability to make predictions of a higher order. This relationship between a system and its environment and the observations associated with it becomes even more complicated when the target changes in response to the actions of the originally acting system and - as in the case on which Norbert Wiener worked during the war years - an airplane, for example makes evasive movements to avoid being hit by an anti-aircraft gun. These changes in goal, as a result of observing observations, must also be extrapolated.
The term teleology , which was introduced by Christian Wolff in 1728 to designate the final purpose in the metaphysics of Aristotle and the metaphysical, scholastic interpretation, has been reintroduced into the scientific debate by researchers like Wiener under new auspices to be able to theoretically substantiate an extended concept of control. One practical problem was, for example, how to build machines that steer towards a goal. For this purpose, they analyzed critically the concept of "Behavior" ( behavior ) and put the enggeführten focus on simple input-output relationships more complex, the specific structure and internal organization of a system reflective perspective against which they subsumed under the term "teleology". The concept should be described on a level of abstraction that allowed the "determination" of organisms and machines to be captured equally.
For Heinz von Foerster , the “purpose” serves above all as an explanatory model for different behavior, but directed towards the same result: “The idea of the purpose here - viewed from a second-order perspective - created an enormous simplification and clarity of the explanations . That is the purpose of the purpose. ”For there are numerous phenomena in nature and society that can only be explained causally with great difficulty. These relationships can be better described with the assumption of purposefulness .
In the context of sociological systems theory ( e.g. Niklas Luhmann ), the concept of purpose is stripped of its classical content (development of nature, causal feasibility of effects) under functional framework conditions and now describes the unity of the difference between aspired and non-aspired states . Under the functionalist paradigm, the setting of ends-means relationships is understood as the drawing of contingent (i.e. functionally equivalent) forms in the medium of causality . According to Luhmann, purposeful orientations are nothing more than rules of experience processing or the conscious recording and simplification of complex world states. The rationality of the organization of a system is measured by its ability to efficiently reduce complexity, to adapt quickly to changes in the system environment and to network the services provided in its subsystems.
Purpose setting is a system's own contribution. The purpose therefore remains tied to the system's conceptions of its system-environment relationship that are relevant to the purpose. In this sense, value aspects of the concept of purpose are neutralized. Purpose only means the estimated effect of an action, i.e. a contingent-selective event. In this sense, systems basically operate ateleologically. Systems change evolutionarily , but this only means the transformation of improbabilities into probabilities and not a concept of progress that can be interpreted in a teleological sense .
Intentionality is understood as a simplifying self-description of a system operating in the medium of meaning . Only such a system can attribute behavior to itself or to another system as conscious action, observe it as target-oriented and interpret it in this sense. The motifs themselves are not an original arrangement of a psychological system, but rather, according to Luhmann, are ultimately formed communicatively. A motif in this sense is a medium of structural coupling between psychological and social systems. In social systems, expectations and the actions directed towards them are stabilized through the imputation or attribution of motives. Unlike Luhmann, Talcott Parsons does not recognize the stabilizing elements of social systems in communication, but primarily in actions.
Architecture and fine arts
For the Applied Arts this applies mostly clear purpose certainty, with but Adolf Loos in his essay Ornament and Crime violently by the "senseless" jewelry , ornament (such as in architecture and design which are not required to fulfill the respective purpose) distances, and thus were just a nuisance. He represents an ideal similar to that of the Bauhaus school ( form follows function ). A pure need for beauty, however, from which an actually superfluous aesthetic design (e.g. in the Baroque ) as well as its appreciation could be explained, is therefore problematic as the sole purpose of this "superfluous" ornament rate, also dependent on the respective concept of art and thus by no means universal.
In the visual arts of Europe, the aesthetic education of the human being has been regarded as the purpose of art since humanism . In his Critique of Judgment, Kant saw “disinterested pleasure” as “determination of aesthetic judgment”. The theorists of L'art pour l'art saw art again as an end in itself. Already Heinrich Heine expressed in a letter in 1838: "Art is the purpose of art." In his essay On the Aesthetic Education of Man , Friedrich Schiller made his investigations into art and beauty, for Schiller only through beauty does man reach freedom .
In his lectures on aesthetics, Hegel tried to fathom the purpose of art, starting from the 19th century concept of art. He asks about the content of art beyond the mere imitation of reality and sees as a purpose of art “that art has the ability and the profession to soften the wildness of desires”, but later comes to the conclusion that yes then “The work of art would only have validity as a useful tool for the realization of this independently valid purpose outside of the art field. Against this is to assert that art is called to reveal the truth in the form of sensual artistic creation, to represent that reconciled contrast ”.
Martin Heidegger later took a similar view in his essay The Question of Technology , who also saw art as the salvation of a human race that was existentially threatened by the frame (the engineered, rational world based on measurability and only allows quantitative properties to apply).
In art itself, however, such objectives have repeatedly been deliberately deceived (e.g. Andy Warhol ). The autonomous art of the modern age is characterized by two fundamental changes: turning away from the mimesis principle, i.e. from the obligation to reality as the standard of imitation, and rejection of any external purpose, including religious or ethical functional determinations (as in the 17th century).
Even if art today may have diverse tasks in society in individual cases, neither its use nor its purpose can be conclusively defined outside of their own categories. Artistic expression in itself is not tied to a specific purpose , and a work of art is often initially identifiable by the fact that it has no obvious purpose.
The Basic Law with its principle of freedom of art does not provide for any purpose for this either.
In jurisprudence , the respective goal or the meaning and purpose of a legal norm (e.g. a law ) or a declaration of intent (e.g. a contract ) is referred to as the ratio legis ( Latin ; ' reason of the law'). The corresponding method of legal interpretation is the teleological interpretation , which goes back to the German legal scholar Friedrich Carl von Savigny (1779–1861).
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