Note on Teleology
Bryce, who has been thinking about teleology for quite a while, expresses his thoughts on the topic with commendable lucidity. The central argument: Characteristically modern claims to have ‘transcended’ the problem of teleology are rendered nonsensical by the continued, and indeed massively deepened, dependence upon the concept of equilibrium across all complexity-sensitive intellectual disciplines, from statistical physics, through population biology, to economics. Equilibrium is exactly a telos. To deny this is primarily the symptom of an allergy to ‘medieval’ or ‘scholastic’ (i.e. Aristotelian) modes of thought, inherited from the vulgar rebellious mechanism of early Enlightenment natural philosophy.
Where I think Bryce’s account is still deficient is most easily shown by a further specification of his principal point. Equilibrium is the telos of those particular dynamic complex systems governed by homeostasis, which is to say: by a dominating negative feedback mechanism. Such systems are, indeed, in profound accordance with classical Aristotelian physical teleology, and its tendency to a state of rest. This ancient physics, derided by the enlightenment mechanists in the name of the conservation of momentum, is redeemed through abstraction into the modern conception of equilibrium. ‘Rest’ is not immobility, but entropy maximization.
Capital Teleology, however, is not captured by this model. It is defined by two anomalous dynamics, which radicalize perturbation, rather than annulling it. Capital is cumulative, and accelerative, due to a primary dependence upon positive (rather than negative) feedback. It is also teleoplexic, rather than classically teleological — inextricable from a process of means-end reversal that rides a prior teleological orientation (human utilitarian purpose) in an alternative, cryptic direction.
(1) Capital Teleology does not approximate to an idea. It is, by intrinsic nature, an escape rather than a home-coming. The Idea, in relation to Capital dynamism, is necessarily a constriction. The inherent metaphysics of capital are therefore irreducibly skeptical (rather than dogmatic).
(2) It follows that Capitalist ‘finality’ (i.e. Techno-commercial Singularity) is a threshold of transition, rather than a terminal state. Capital tends to an open horizon, not to a state of completion.
(3) Entropy (considered, properly, as an inherently teleological process) is the driver of all complex systems. Capital Teleology does not trend towards an entropy maximum, however, but to an escalation of entropy dissipation. It exploits the entropic current to travel backwards, into cybernetically-intensified pathway states of enhanced complexity and intelligence. The ‘progress’ of capitalism is an accentuation of disequilibrium.
(4) Teleoplexy requires a twin teleological registry. Most simply, there is the utilitarian order, in which capital establishes itself as the competitively-superior solution to prior purposes (production of human use-values), and the intelligenic order in which it accomplishes its self-escalation (mechanization, autonomization, and ultimately secession). Confusing these two orders is almost inevitable, since teleoplexy is by nature camouflaged (insidious). The fact that it appears to be oriented to the fulfillment of human consumer preferences is essential to its socio-historical emergence and survival. Stubborn indulgence in this confusion, however, is unworthy of philosophical intelligence.