Explain Aristotle’s understanding of the four causes. (25)
Aristotle was an empiricist, and believed that truth about reality comes from a posterior knowledge; which is the role of gaining knowledge from experience, especially through our senses. Though he was the student of Plato, he greatly disagreed with some of Plato's ideas; Aristotle's ideas were based on what we experience Aristotle wanted to examine what it meant for something to be real, and this is how he formed his ideas of the four causes. His theory was based on knowledge that was found through experience and empirical observation, for example the physical world.
One question that fascinated Aristotle was the question of cause. Aristotle explained that things could be seen in four different ways he came to this conclusion because of the theory of causation which lead him to believe that the world existed in a state of cause and effect. He came up with four causes; the material, formal, efficient and the final cause. In exploring this he recognises that something can have several different explanations for its existence. For example a wooden desk; it is caused by wood because it is a wooden desk, someone making the wooden desk causes it. This is called actualising of potential, for example wood has the potential to be made a desk, but it needs the person to realise this potential. Having a large flat surface and study legs causes it, and it exists in order to fulfill its purpose by providing a surface for someone to work on. All of these causes are the material, formal, efficient and the final cause.