Organon F

Volume 30, August 2023, Issue 3, Pages 222–254

ISSN 2585-7150 (online) ISSN 1335-0668 (print)

Research Article

Causal Capabilities of Teleology and Teleonomy in Life and Evolution

Jonathan Bartlett


Teleological causes have been generally disfavored in biological explanations because they have been thought to lack rigor or act as stand-ins for non-teleological processes which are simply not yet understood sufficiently. Teleological explanations in biology have been limited to only teleonomic causes, which are teleological causes that are due to codes or similarly reified mechanisms. However, advances in the conceptualization of teleological and teleonomic causation have allowed for more quantitative analyses of both. Additionally, although teleonomy has been historically excluded from potential causes of evolution, new research has shown that teleonomy actually plays a significant role in evolution. Combining these advances with advances in computability theory and information theory have allowed for a more rigorous and quantitative analysis of the capabilities and limitations of teleonomy in evolution.


Teleology; teleonomy; evolution; information theory; active information; causation.

Author(s) and affiliation(s)


Jonathan Bartlett


The Blyth Institute


The Blyth Institute, Broken Arrow, Tulsa, OK, USA


About this article


6 February 2023


3 July 2023


28 July 2023


Institute of Philosophy of the Slovak Academy of Sciences

Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences

Cite as


Bartlett, J. (2023). Causal Capabilities of Teleology and Teleonomy in Life and Evolution. Organon F30(3), 222–254.


Bartlett, Jonathan. 2023. "Causal Capabilities of Teleology and Teleonomy in Life and Evolution." Organon F 30 (3): 222–254.


Bartlett, J. (2023). Causal Capabilities of Teleology and Teleonomy in Life and Evolution. Organon F, 30(3), pp. 222–254.

Copyright information

© Jonathan Bartlett

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