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Explain Aristotle idea of the four causes.

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Laura Barrett Explain Aristotle idea of the four causes. Some of the questions that Aristotle wanted to answer were to do with the nature of things, their substance. A question that he wanted to answer was "What gives a particular object their characteristics?" For Aristotle the 'Form' of something was not some kind of abstract Ideal, as Plato had believed but was found within the item itself. Its form was its structure, and its characteristics; the 'form' of an object can be eagerly perceived with the senses. The explanations of things could be seen in four different ways, at four different levels: the four causes. The first cause is the material cause. This answers the question what it is made of? The material cause is that of which an entity, object or system is made. Material causes effect the wholes of which they constitute through transference of their inherent qualitative properties. For example two tables that are formally identical, but consist of differing material cause will each reflect the properties of the materials from which it is constructed. A table that is made from wood will have the qualitative properties of wood. Therefore will be qualitatively distinct from tables made from plastic or metal. ...read more.


Another argument is the prime mover. The prime mover to Aristotle is the first of all substances, the necessary first source of movement which itself unmoved. But the prime mover causes the movement of other things, not as an efficient cause, but as a final cause. This is significant to Aristotle because he thought that an efficient cause would be affected itself by the act of pushing. However the prime mover is not efficient cause, it is a final cause because it is the object of everything. It appears that Aristotle crosses over from a consideration of physics. Therefore I conclude that I agree with the statement, Aristotle's four causes is convincing. On the other hand I am just looking at the small picture and believing what one philosopher Aristotle is saying. Maybe I am just agreeing it because it is there no other explanation. Perhaps I'm in both minds because Aristotle crosses over from a consideration of physics but also the explanation of things can be seen in four different ways, at four different levels. The proper definitions that Aristotle gave in explaining the concept of each cause are the following: 1)Material Cause- That out of which something occurs comes to be and which is present in that thing. ...read more.


Where Aristotle and Plato differ, however, is that Plato believes there should be a unity in the explanation of something (i.e., that it should be explained exclusively in terms of its form), whereas Aristotle requires multiple explanations of something (i.e., explanations in terms of the four causes) that are not radically ambiguous. Aristotle requires this because he believes that Plato's forms cannot be efficient causes. For instance, he writes in Book II, Chapter 9 of On Generation and Corruption that Plato's forms are neither sufficient nor necessary for efficient causation. There are some cases, he writes, where they fail to generate things continuously (a claim against sufficiency); and there are other cases where something else can be the efficient cause, such as a doctor being the efficient cause of health, and not the Platonic form of Health (a claim against necessity) (De Gen. et Corr., 335b8ff). In the Metaphysics, Aristotle will continue to criticize Plato's forms as sources of efficient causation. In Book I, Chapter 9, his claim against sufficiency is that, regardless of the existence of the forms, partakers do not come to be unless something initiates change. Likewise, his claim against necessity is that certain things can come to be, like houses or rings, even though we do not consider them as having forms (Metaphysics, 991b5). ...read more.

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