Aristotle's Four Causes

Topics: Causality, Aristotle, Cosmological argument Pages: 3 (935 words) Published: March 5, 2011
a)Explain Aristotle’s theory of four causes (25 marks)

Aristotle’s interest in explaining why things exist as they do led to his theory of Four Causes. He rejected Plato’s theory of Forms and was more intrigued by the particular form in which an object took, as opposed to the ‘ideal, perfect’ form. The four causes are: the material cause, the formal cause, the efficient cause and the final cause.

The material cause refers to the physical cause of an object. It occurs because of the parts, substance or materials and the explanation of the cause derives from its parts. For instance, the material cause of a statue is bronze or silver. In order to create a bronze statue, bronze is required.

The formal cause refers to what gives the object its form or structure; its characteristics. For example, the statue cannot be labelled as a statue if it doesn’t have certain characteristics such as a head or shaped into a person. These characteristics explain the production of the statue.

The third cause according to Aristotle is the efficient cause. This cause explains why the thing exists; how it has become what it is. Aristotle said that the efficient cause is ‘the primary source of change’ as it explains something at the point at which change occurs. In the case of the statue, the efficient cause would be the sculptor because it introduces the changes to the bronze in order to turn it into a statue. Aristotle argues that the efficient cause is not necessarily just the sculptor but his/her knowledge in the art of sculpturing as the sculptor just shows their knowledge by creating the statue.

The fourth cause is the final cause. It explains the cause of something with the reason of why it was made. It is teleological as it is concerned with the purpose of a particular object. The final cause is the conceived end thing it must serve and fulfil. For instance, the final cause of the bronze statue it to reflect an important person or for a memorial purpose....
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