Essay: Aristotle

Q1a) Explain Aristotle’s Theory of the Four causes. (33 marks)

Q1b) Aristotle’s theory of the four causes is convincing. Discuss. (17 marks)

A1a) Aristotle was a Greek Philosopher who was a pupil of Plato. Aristotle rejected Platonic dualism. Aristotle was an empiricist; he believed that knowledge is only attainable through experience and the senses. He believed that the Form of something is physical, observable and not abstract. Aristotle identified four causes that he believed to completely explain what causes something to exist. The material cause answers the question what does it consist of? The efficient cause answers the question how does something happen? The formal cause answers the question what are its characteristics? The final cause answers the question why is it here? Or what is its purpose? Once all four causes have been established, it was Aristotle’s belief that the complete explanation for the existence of an item has been found. The most important of these causes is the Final Cause This is concerned with the ultimate end or function of why something exists. Aristotle believed everything had a purpose (Final Cause). This belief is known now as the teleological explanation for the existence of God. The final cause of a natural object - a plant or an animal - is not a purpose, plan, or “intention. The four causes, especially the first two, are closely linked to Aristotle's important dichotomy between matter and form. This is the theory of hylomorphism; the theory that every physical object is composed of two principles, an unchanging prime matter and a form deprived of actuality with every substantial change of the object.

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Aristotle opposes final causes in nature to chance or randomness. So the fact that there is regularity in nature - as Aristotle says, things in nature happen “always or for the most part” - suggests to him that biological individuals run true to form. So this end, which developing individuals regularly achieve, is what they are “aiming at.” Thus, for a natural object, the final cause is typically identified with the formal cause. The final cause of a developing plant or animal is the form it will ultimately achieve, the form into which it grows and develops.

The basic ...

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