Natural teleology, common in classical philosophy, though controversial today, contends that natural entities also have intrinsic purposes, irrespective of human use or opinion. For instance, Aristotle claimed that an acorn's intrinsic telos is to become a fully grown oak tree. Though ancient atomists rejected the notion of natural teleology, teleological accounts of non-personal or non-human nature were explored and often endorsed in ancient and medieval philosophies, but fell into disfavor during the modern era (1600–1900).
For Aristotle, these subordinate telos can become the means to achieve more fundamental telos. Through this concept, for instance, the philosopher underscored the importance of politics and that all other fields are subservient to it. He explained that the telos of the blacksmith is the production of a sword, while that of the swordsman's, which uses the weapon as a tool, is to kill or incapacitate an enemy. On the other hand, the telos of these occupations are merely part of the purpose of a ruler, who must oversee the direction and well-being of a state.
According to the Marxist perspective, historical change is dictated by socio-economic structures, which means that laws largely determine the realization of the telos of the class struggle. Thus, as per the work of Hegel and Marx, historical trends, too, have telos.