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The explanations offered by functionalists or structural functionalists have a property referred to as teleology - explaining things in terms of their end results or purposes. Functionalist tend to explain features of social life in terms of their function (the part they play) in social life. These kinds of explanations are found in biology as well and it is not surprising that functionalists like Durkheim adopted an organic metaphor. The lungs, for example, are explained in terms of what they do in and for the human body. The classic example of this reasoning is found in Durkheim's discussion of the functions of crime in any society. He argues that as darkness needs light, a moral society needs immorality as a way to make morality visible. Others have argued that crime or deviance also help the society by clarifying the moral boundaries of the group. Many would argue that these are not explanations at all, but are logically circular. See: STRUCTURAL FUNCTIONALISM / .

Last updated 2002--0-9-

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© Robert Drislane, Ph.D. and Gary Parkinson, Ph.D.
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