Ontos: Ethics as Oughtness and Teleos: Ethics as Perfecting Power

My youngest son asked me yesterday about Ontology. He was actually looking for the word epistemology, but ontology is what he asked me to define and that is as good a place to start as any.

Ontology comes from the ancient word ontos. The word can be translated as responsibility or a load or a burden. I prefer to take it to mean responsibility.

In Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, an older female character tries to explain Atticus Finch, the crusading attornery, to his daughter, called Scout. Help me find it. In part the character says;

“Atticus is that one who comes along to help us do the harder things…”

This is the ontos, our ethos (ethics) as load or burden or responsibility.

In truth after age forty (younger for some older for some, never for a few)

the primal urge is to carry the load. This is not altruism, only, and altruism is not selfishness, mostly.

I just mean we learn we have to carry out our tasks for the sake of hoi polloi,

which is, well, us all.


There is not just the ethical load, the ontos. 

There is also the perfecting xaris, or grace.

The Apostle Paul uses teleos, our goal reaching ethics

many of the times he tries to explain grace and all its affects.


Teleology is our ethos as personal improvement.

If we believe in God at all (I do)

we must believe this; God intends our betterment,

or what is the purpose of a Savior?


We need to get better, we know it,

if not, the Cross is an extreme event, don’t you think?


So, let’s close,

we need both

the load carrying

and the strength building,

the ethos of ontos and teleos.




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