Aristotle's Four Causes

Topics: Causality, Aristotle, Philosophical concepts Pages: 1 (296 words) Published: February 8, 2014
Aristotle notices how everything changes in the universe and he questioned the existence of things/ object. He developed the four causes which allowed him and others to have a more accurate understanding: Material cause, Efficient cause, Formal cause and the Final cause. Firstly the Material cause is the first cause. It is the understanding of what an object is, by looking at the materials/ components the thing is made from. For example, a table. A table’s material(s) can be wood, metal, plastic etc. Aristotle believed that our world consists of changing matter; it is not perfect. Therefore, mater/ material has the potential to become something. Also, material cause is important to consider, because without the cause of material, the thing/object would not have existed. But, material cause does not explain the purpose of an object on its own.

The second cause is the efficient cause. This is the activity/ action that caused the existence of an object. In the case of a wooden table, its efficient cause would be the crafter or carpenter because he produced the table by building it; even his tools; e.g. a hammer can be part of an efficient cause. Aristotle expressed this as “actualising the potential,” which means that the efficient cause is responsible for bringing the potential out of something. This cause is also important because without it, the object would not exist; without the creator, the wooden table would not exist.

The formal cause is the third cause. This is the process of understanding something by looking at its shape and characteristics which would then allow us to identifying what it is or could be. For example, we know a table is a table because it has four legs, a flat table top surface etc.
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