Following on from Plato’s Theory of Forms, we will now discuss Aristotle’s Four Causes.
Who was Aristotle?
What was Aristotle interested in?
- Plato suggested that all things were an imitation of an ideal Form. Aristotle rejected this idea.
- Instead he was interested in matter and why a particular piece of matter exists in the way it does.
- If we look at a TV, for example, we can see that the TV is made of different materials, has a certain design and we know that people or machines put it together to become a TV. After all, having a pile of parts which make up a TV is not the same as having a real TV.
- Hence, Aristotle observed that there must be more than one cause for things to exist. This resulted in the development of Aristotle’s four causes.
Aristotle’s Four Causes:
Aristotle’s four causes were the material cause, the forma cause, the efficient cause and the final cause.
- The Material Cause – this is the substance that something is made from. For example, a TV is made from glass and metal and plastic.
- The Formal Cause – this refers to what gives the matter its form. For example, a TV is not just a piece of glass but glass and metal arranged in a certain way and programmed to work as it does.
- The Efficient Cause – this refers to the reason behind somethings existence. For example, a TV exists because someone has the idea to build one and put all the parts together to make it work.
- The Final Cause – this cause is the reason why something is the way it is. This asks the question, what is the function of this object? Why does a TV have glass on the screen? So that we can watch it. The Final Cause is the reason why a thing exists in the first place, what is its function.
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Aristotle’s Four Causes Example:
If we ask what caused a house to exist, Aristotle would give you the following answers:
Material Cause: It is made of bricks and concrete.
Formal Cause: The bricks and concrete have been assembled so that a structure has emerged.
Efficient Cause: A builder put all its parts together.
Final Cause: Its function is to be a place where we can sleep and be warm.
What do you think of Aristotle’s four causes?