The Teleological Dimension in European Thought:
A Methodological Comparison
Dr. Abderrazak Said Belabes
Islamic Economics Institute
King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Abstract. This paper aims to shed light on the teleological dimension in European thought by analyzing its meaning and presuppositions. After the statement that the teleological question was raised by the Greek philosophers and Christian scholars, it is clear that the idea leading the European thought is the means and results against purposes and intentions in Muslim thought needs revision. The influential European intellectual elite, since the Enlightenment, sought to avoid the teleological question in its form as it exists in philosophical and religious heritage, by focusing on the means under the pretext that the teleological question is not in the science domain. With the passage of time, the evolution of experimental science and the diversity of specialties, it soon became apparent that it is almost impossible to avoid the teleological issue. However, it has been reduced to a mechanical process in terms of performance, adaptation and self-regulation, which some call teleonomy. It is surprising that some Islamic finance literature tend to reduce the teleological question of performance, adaptation or imitation of what is prevalent. Intentionally or unintentionally, this block of literature is influenced by the teleonomical approach. Hence, it is necessary to overcome this cognitive dissonance. On the other hand, the debate between those interested in the teleological question, from different disciplines, may present an opportunity for the rehabilitation of the teleological dimension and promote interactions between finality and mean, intention and result, by raising new questions in the post-modernity era. This comparison clearly shows that teleological question is not confined to Muslims only. Therefore, the importance of Islamic teleological dimension is mainly associated with Shari'ah injunctions, not into its standalone knowledge tool. The discovery of purposes is achieved mostly by thorough examination of basic sources of the Shari’ah and through induction as well. Thus, if the human intellect could by its-own lead to the identification of peoples’ interest in all its dimensions, the messengers and reveled books would have been useless. In the European predominant thought, the teleological question doesn't exceed, in the best cases, the narrow horizon of the affairs of worldly life, and its ethical, social and environmental requirements. The Islamic thought takes into account both; worldly and afterlife interests. While the debate over teleology is important, the key issue is in its impact on actual behavior.
Keywords: Teleology, teleonomy, philosophy, religion, Christianism, Islam, Europe.