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
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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