Dissertation Abstract




Narrative Telos: The Ordering Tendencies Of Chance (Charles Sanders Peirce)


Victoria N. Alexander



Degree:           Ph.D.

Year:             2002

Pages:            00249

Institution:      City University of New York; 0046

Advisor:          Adviser Joan Richardson


Source:           DAI, 63, no. 03A (2002): p. 951

Standard No:      ISBN:             0-493-61288-2


This work reexamines five different teleologies in light of nonlinear dynamics and evolutionary theory, which study apparently relic phenomena (i.e., emergent complexity and self-organization). Firstly, Aristotle's teleology is described as nonmental. He posits an internal  set of constraints, which imply, not a rational Creator but a rational universe. His telos guides events that are probable . He claimed no rare accidental function should be called purposeful for this would imply a Deus ex Machina. On these points, Aristotle compares to complexity scientists studying spontaneous organization. Secondly, Christians, in contrast to Aristotle, argued especially fortunate or unfortunate accidents are caused by the telos of an  external agent. This telos, known as Providence, is mysterious to humans who exist in linear time. Because all time occurs at once to God, the end can affect the beginning. Coincident, physically unrelated events are linked by the idea of justice they serve, lending this telos a mental aspect. This telos functions in chaotic "road" narratives, for example, Spenser's Faerie Queene and Arms'  Money, that contain hidden order. Thirdly, although 19th century teleology may appear linear and rigid, this is due to the reductive determinism against which it was conceived. Kant added a notion of predetermined  fortuity to the mechanistic cosmos, arguing the initial configuration of atoms had been chosen so that future coincidences would be synchronized causing the apparently "chance" effects God had actually intended. This telos determines Kundera's  Immortality. Fourthly, if new more complex systems can emerge as result of the accidental functions they serve, they will seem telic because functionality is an end cause. This results in naturalistic mentalism, which determines the order in much of Henry James' work. If according to Kant all "new" things were mere permutations of old, in James' pragmatic universe, truly new order is possible. Fifthly, today structural evolutionary theorists, like the 19th century Kantian teleomechanists, seek the "principles of organization" that govern stochastic processes resulting in similarities across species, or  structural archetypes. Spontaneous organization, as first described by C. S. Peirce, is related to patterns in Pynehon's The Crying of Lot 49.



Accession No:     AAI3047192

Provider:        OCLC

Database:         Dissertations