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Aristotle's four causes (Read 3385 times)
Gerrit-Jan Linker
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Aristotle's four causes
15.04.11 at 07:30:05
Aristotle's four causes
Aristotle's held that to fully explain anything, you must know its purpose and meaning and the good that it seeks (final and formal causes) as well as knowing what it is made of and the sources of its changing (material and efficient causes).

  • Material cause
    A thing's material cause is the material of which it consists.  
  • Formal cause
    A thing's formal cause is its form, i.e. the arrangement of that matter.
  • Efficient cause
    A thing's efficient or moving cause is "the primary source of the change or rest." An efficient cause of x can be present even if x is never actually produced and so should not be confused with a sufficient cause. (Aristotle argues that, for a table, this would be the art of table-making, which is the principle guiding its creation.)
  • Final cause
    A thing's final cause is its aim or purpose. That for which the sake of which a thing is what it is. (For a seed, it might be an adult plant. For a sailboat, it might be sailing. For a ball at the top of a ramp, it might be coming to rest at the bottom.)

The philosophy that all things must have a final cause is called teleology. This is a view opposed in modern science where the focus is on the material and formal cause.
The rise of modern science in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries undermined this teleological view of the world.  The new mechanistic science of Galileo and Newton expelled final causes or purposes, and hence value, from the physical universe.  
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« Last Edit: 15.04.11 at 22:54:01 by Gerrit-Jan Linker »  

Gerrit-Jan Linker
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