Aristotle Notes on Four Causes and Prime Mover

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Aristotle - notes on 4 causes and the Prime Mover

Aristotle was a materialist. The material world is important for Aristotle as it is this world where our knowledge starts (i.e. we are not born with knowledge like Plato suggested – he’s not a rationalist). •He was an empiricist. This means that he believed knowledge comes to us through the senses. So knowledge for Aristotle is a posteriori (post experience) not a priori (prior to experience). •Philosophy, for Aristotle, was ultimately concerned with the study of the physical universe in order to distinguish metaphysical truths. •Everything in the physical universe has potentiality and actuality. → A sperm and an egg is actually a sperm and egg, and potentially a baby. → A baby is actually a baby, and potentially a murderer or a Nobel prize winner.

Aristotle rejected Plato’s ideas of Forms for a number of reasons. → He was unsatisfied with Plato’s lack of explanation for how a Form can manifest itself within the world (i.e. how is a particular instance of justice actually linked to the mysterious Form of Justice). → He rejected Plato’s assertion that true knowledge was a priori knowledge of the Forms as knowledge is a posteriori.

Aristotle’s Forms were found within this world. An object, x, could be defined as a being of a type X, because objects of the type X are the only thing in the universe which have four particular causes.

The Four Causes

1)The material cause – the stuff that makes the object, e.g. bricks, mortar, tiles, etc., are the material cause of a house. 2)The efficient cause – the ‘how’ the object came into being, i.e. the builders, architects, contractors, etc., that caused the house to come into being. 3)The formal cause – the particular arrangement of the material into the particular shape/structure/form, i.e. the design of the house. 4)The final cause – the purpose of the object, i.e. to provide shelter, warmth, comfort, safety.

→ These four causes then can...
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