The Four Causes of Aristotle: a Summary of Pre-Socratic Thought

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Aristotle, being the first historian of philosophy, categorized his predecessors according to how they’ve answered the central questions of the human mind – the question of the first principle of all things. It is otherwise known as the Four Causes. He defined science as knowledge through causes. This doctrine of causes is scattered in different Aristotelian treatises but have its highlight in his book Metaphysics.

This principle of causality is an essential part of Aristotelian thought. In his mind, Aristotle argued that events happen for a cause which will explain its origin, end and the way it came to be. For him, “everything that comes to be is due to causes.” He criticized his predecessors for their not having clearly explained the why of this, that, and so on. Chance, mythology or fortuitous events are not sufficient enough to solve the problem of cosmology. These causes are divided into four distinct types. He developed this principle from the standpoint of being. For this reason, the basic Aristotelian division is between actual and potential causes, contrary to the traditional division made by the scholastics between intrinsic and extrinsic. As for the actual cause, there is the formal, efficient and final causes and for the potency only the material cause; in the traditional scholastic division, material and formal causes made up the intrinsic cause while the remaining two makes the extrinsic cause.

Each of these causes can be shortly defined as follows:
1.Material Cause is the constitutive element from which something is made from. 2.Formal Cause means the form of something, “it is what determines its essence to be what it is” 3.Efficient Cause is the being who made that something.

4.Final Cause is that for what sake something exists, “it is what constitutes the perfection of the being” . In other words, it is the purpose of that being. The final cause is the summation of all other causes; it is where every other cause can be founded....
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