I argue that while mechanistic and teleological explanations are distinctly different, both are required in order to thoroughly explain a phenomenon. In this essay, I will describe mechanistic, atomistic, and teleological explanations, highlight their key differences, and then explain why one cannot completely understand a phenomenon without incorporating a teleological component.
A mechanistic explanation is one that describes “how” a phenomenon (such as breathing, growing, or eating) occurs. It conveys the physiological, or physical, movements and changes involved in that phenomenon. Mechanistic explanations adhere to the idea that a phenomenon occurs solely due to perfectly (though randomly) timed interactions between various objects. These types of explanations also describe the sequence of physical and geometrical changes that the object undergoes during a phenomenon. An atomistic explanation is a type of mechanistic explanation that describes a phenomenon in terms of the movement of the object’s…show more content… Perhaps the puppy must develop in a particular sequence because that sequence is key to its survival. For example, perhaps if a part other than the embryo’s heart developed first, then there would be no blood, no heart-beat, and thus no life, to drive the rest of the development. Of course, this may not actually be the case (in fact, it is not), but this is just an example of a possible teleological explanation which explains why the development of the embryo occurs in these phases, rather than explaining what are the phases. Thus, the main difference between a teleological and mechanistic explanation is that the mechanistic explanation tells one how a phenomena works, whereas the teleological explanation tells one the purpose of the phenomena, or why it occurs in a particular