Aristotle On Four Causes Essay

1046 words - 5 pages

According to one way of speaking, that out of which as a constituent a thing comes to be is called a cause; for example, the bronze and the silver and their genera would be the causes respectively of a statue and a loving0cup According to another the form or model is a cuse; this is the account of what the being would be, and its genera – thus the cuase of an octave is the ratio of two to one, and more generally number – and the parts which come into the account. Again, there is the primary source of the change or the staying unchanged : for example, the man who has deliberated is a cuse, the father is a cause of the child, and in general that which makes something of that which is made, and ...view middle of the document...

The material cause is characterised as ‘that our of which’. It is what the thing to be explained is made of or can be cut up into.
The formal cause is introduced with the example ‘the ratio of two to one’. In 195a16-21, however, he says that syllables stand to their letters, artefacts to the stuff of which they are make, bodies to fire, etc., wholes to their parts, and conclusions to premises, as their formal cause, and here the formal cause is clearly that which the matter closely constitutes.
The third sort of thing which can be called a cause is a source of change or of staying unchanged. Aristotle’s examples are heterogeneous and some closer to the thing to be explained than others. Art is closer to the statue than the artist and the seed is presumably closer than the father to the child. Strength is said to be the source of change relative to hard work. Presumably, then, moral states, virtues and vices, would be sources of change relative to voluntary actions and closer sources than the deliberate agent. That being so, it is misleading to call Aristotle’e sources of change efficient causes. Aristotle says that actual causes are always contemporaneous with the things for which they are responsible, not antecedent.
Finally there is the end. This we are told, is what the other things are for, and the best thing. ‘The other things’ sounds a vague phrase, but may be taken fairly literally. Noot only are the organic parts and natural behaviour of living things, according to Aristotle, for something, but also dispositions, like strength and medical knowledge, are for thigns, for hard work or health.
That arts and artefacts have objectives which are in some sense goods may be generally agreed; but Aristotle particularly hopes to find, outside the sphere of rational action, factors which...

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