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Aristotle 's Understanding Of The Four Causes

Decent Essays
a) Explain Aristotle’s understanding of the four causes

Aristotle explains that anything which changes is subject to causes giving it potentiality. Potentiality means that something has a purpose to fulfil when it is enabled to, this potentiality becomes actuality when it achieves that purpose which Aristotle called ‘Telos’. Therefore in order to go from cause to effect an object must change and Aristotle understood this process in four different ways called the four causes. He understood that each of the four causes was necessary to explain the change from potentiality to actuality. The Final cause is a very different cause to the other three. Whereas the Material, Efficient and Formal causes all relate to how something exists, the Final
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The third cause is the formal cause, this is used to explain the shape that something has and what allows it to become identified. For example, we recognise a dog because of its certain shape. The material and efficient cause do not specify what the object actually is because if the dog were a completely different physical shape it would not be recognised as a dog.
The final cause however, is when something achieves it end or telos. This means that the final cause of a dog is to reproduce to continue its species. Aristotle used this idea of a final cause to demonstrate the nature of goodness. He taught that being good was when something had achieved its telos. Therefore the right way to behave would be to work toward achieving your purpose and this means that doing anything that does not progress toward fulfilling your telos would be immoral.
If a snowman is taken as an example, then the Material cause is snow, the efficient cause is the children who made it, and the Formal cause is the shape of the snowman. These three causes could be seen to be sufficient for how to work out what the snowman is, however Aristotle 's Final cause states that for the snowman to be anything, then it must fulfil its purpose. In this case the snowman’s final cause is to enable the children to have fun. However if the snowman did not fulfil its purpose it would have no reason for being. If the snowman did not make children happy then the efficient, material and formal
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