Aristotle: The Four Causes

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Aristotle is considered by many to be one of the most influential philosophers in history. As a student of Plato, he built on his mentor’s teachings of things like The Theory of Forms and his views on the soul. He also challenged them, introducing his own ideas such as act and potency, and the four causes. He used these ideas to explain his account of the soul and of the intellect. Aristotle used the terms act and potency to respond to the arguments about change’s non-existence and bridge the gap between past philosophers. Aristotle used act and potency to examine many things such as, motion, causality and metaphysics. He explained that the act or reality of a thing is its true way of being and that potential is a things capability of being, further than its own existence. For example, chocolate is good, but if you eat too much you can become obese. According to Aristotle’s reasoning, the becoming or change of the chocolate occurs when a potential is actualized. Though these changes occur, the thing itself stays the same. When the chocolate is eaten, it loses the actuality of being a good taste satisfier and gains the actuality of being a reason to become obese. Aristotle later explains that the “full reality” of a thing is when the actuality and potentiality of a thing are combined. He notes that while things can be “pure potency,” meaning not actual or real, that there is only one “pure act” and that is God. Aristotle also introduced the concept of Hylemorphism, his belief that all beings were made up of two principles. He rejected his predecessor’s beliefs that there was only one principle, as he believed that in order for something to change and not itself be changed in the process it must consist of two principles; one that changes and one that remains the same. Aristotle believed that these substances were forms and matter. It was Aristotle’s claim that form is the constant, unchanging principle in a person. It is because of form that we have...
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