Goal-orientation isdirection towards achieving a certain goal, a certain state. It is also designated by the term teleology, however, at certaintimes and in various circles, the concept of teleology was understood in different ways. At the most general level, it can be stated that teleology expresses a certain way of anchoring things and processes in the order of the world. The methodology of contemporary science clearly differentiates two types of archoring. In the language of the systems theory, it can be stated that the properties of a system follow both from the properties of the parts (subsystems and elements) from which the particular system is composed, and also from the properties of the systems of which it is, itself, a subsystem. When we ask why a system has certain properties, for example, why a mullen (Verbascum spp.) flower is yellow, we are asking in one sentence about two completely different things. To begin with, at the particular moment, we could be interested in the cause of the yellow colour of the mullen flower. If we are biochemists, we will probably be asking about the mechanism that leads to the synthesis of the yellow pigment in the petals of the plant. If we are physicists, we will be interested in the mechanism leading to the absorbance or reflectance of light of certain wavelengths by the molecules of the relevant plant colourants. In both cases, we will be attempting to find an explanation (anchoring) of the particular phenomenon from below, internally, i.e. we are attempting to explain the properties of the system on the basis of the properties of the elements or subsystems from which it is composed.
However, similar questions can be resolved in the opposite way. In this case, we are looking for an explanation of certain properties of a system in the properties of the system (supersystem?) of which the studied system is a subsystem. Thus, if we are ecologists, we will be interested to learn, in connection with the yellow colour of the mullen flower, which pollinators the mullen needs to attract and which colour these pollinators prefer. A thing or a process can be anchored in that we describe its cause or in that we describe its purpose.There exists an important asymmetry between the two types of anchoring. Every phenomenon (process) has its cause, the logically essential or random phenomenon that caused it. However, only some phenomena have a purpose. is frequently confused with Usefulness.However, in actual fact, there is a very substantial difference between these two concepts, which can be clearly illustrated on the following example. Attempts can be made to treat a sore throat using antibiotics or a incantation. In both cases, this will be goal-oriented behaviour, subservient to a particular purpose, targeted towards a particular goal. However, in only the first case will this also be useful conduct, i.e. in most cases it will objectively assist in achieving the given goal.
In order for it to be possible to differentiate the usefulness of a system enforced from outside through the intentional will of intelligent beings, from internal usefulness, formed spontaneously as a consequence of the properties of the developing system itself, for example, usefulness formed as a consequence of biological evolution, some authors have proposed the term teleonomy (cf. astrology, astronomy) for the second type of usefulness. This term has not caught on yet. If, in addition, we realize that the usefulness of organisms is not connected with goal-orientation, we find that the term teleonomy is not really required in biology. Most philosophical discussions of purpose in biological systems are, in fact, actually concerned with goal-orientation; however, most discussions of purpose in the framework of evolutionary biology are really concerned with usefulness.