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What sort of argument is Aristotle's theory of the causes?



What does Teleological mean?

Teleology is concerned with the final end or purpose of something. The ‘telos’ of an object is part of the object itself, it is intrinsic.


How did Aristotle differ from Plato?

Unlike Plato, Aristotle did not believe there are two separate realms. He believed the world we live in is the only place in which we can have true knowledge, because it is through our sense experience that we come to understand things. Aristotle believed that ‘form’ was not an ideal, but found within the item itself. The form is its structure and characteristics and can be perceived using the senses.


What does prime matter mean?

Prime Matter refers to anything that lacks a well defined form – not organised in any particular structure. It has matter but no form.


How does Aristotle perceive God?

God is the only thing that has form without matter


What are the four causes?

Material cause
Efficient Cause
Formal Cause
Final Cause


What is the material cause?

What the object is made of. The material cause of a statue would be gold or bronze, for a chair it would be wood.
It asks the question: What is it made of?


What is the Efficient Cause?

The agent that brings something about. In the case of a statue the act of chiseling is the efficient cause, as is the sculpture.
It asks the question: How did it happen?


What is the Formal cause?

The characteristics of the object. The person or mythical beast that the statue resembles. The statue is not just a lump of marble someone is chiseling away at.
It asks the question: What are its characteristics?


What is the Final Cause?

The reason for its existence. This is the most important aspect of Aristotle’s thinking. The final cause of a statue is the desire of the sculptor to make a decorative or commemorative beautiful object.
It asks the question: What is it for?


What is good?

Something is good if it achieves its end purpose, and its telos defines its good. Aristotle said that if it were possible to discover the telos of an organism, it would be possible to determine what needs to be done to reach that end.


What are the strengths of the Four Causes?

Based on empirical knowledge- we can observe it ourselves.
Can readily be applied to things in the world as a way of explaining them.
Allows us to consider why something exists, and it's purpose, which can be used to suggest the universe has a purpose
Some of causes are easy to prove- more so than the theory of the Forms


What are the weaknesses of the Four Causes?

Plato would argue that empirical knowledge is flawed.
Final Causes aren't needed to explain objects- Richard Dawkins doesn't believe in a final cause.
It only works if there is indeed an end purpose, but some people reject that.
Could be said that some objects can not be explained by 4 causes- a flash lightning ect.
Difficult to apply to humans, and concepts and intangible things such as emotions
Does cancer have a purpose which makes it good?


What is the world and what did this lead to Aristotle saying?

It is transient- in a state on constant movement. Aristotle posits that all movement (not just motion but all kinds of change) must have a mover


Why is movement considered eternal and what does Aristotle say about this?

The concept of movement or change is eternal - there cannot be a first or last change. For example, we can observe movement in ‘the heavens’ (in space) with no apparent beginning or end. Aristotle argued that this eternal movement points to a mover that does not move itself. It cannot be the efficient cause of movement because an efficient causer would move itself. Thus Aristotle argues that the unmoved mover or Prime Mover must be a final cause.


What is the final cause of movement?

For Aristotle, the final cause of movement is a love and desire for God. God is perfection, everything wants to imitate perfection, and therefore everyone is drawn to it – creating movement without moving itself.


What is God as the prime mover like?

God exists necessarily – he does not depend on anything else for his existence, and cannot be thought of as not existing. He never changes or has the potential to change, he is eternal. Since God cannot create movement by physical means, he must instead create movement by drawing things to himself.


Why must God never be immaterial and eternal?

Eternal things must be good; there can be no defect in something that exists necessarily, because badness is connected with some kind of lack, a not-being of something which ought to be there, an absence of the ‘actuality’ that Aristotle thought God most perfectly has. It could not be made of any kind of stuff, because matter is capable of being acted upon, it has potential to change.


What does God do?

the activity of the Prime Mover, God, must be purely spiritual and intellectual. The activity of God is thought. God could not think about anything which caused him to change in any way; nothing which could affect him, or react, or even change him from not-knowing to knowing. Aristotle concludes that God thinks about himself only. Nothing else is a fit subject. He even defines God as ‘thought of thought’, or ‘thinking about thinking’. At the end of this line of argument, Aristotle comes to the conclusion that God knows only himself


Why must the Prime mover be outside of space and time?

Because otherwise, there would need to be something that started the prime mover, and something that happened before it existed which would lead to infinite regression.


Why is the Prime Mover necessary?

Everything in the world in in flux- it is transient. But something needed to start the movement, without itself moving. This thing would be the prime mover.


How would the Prime Mover cause movement?

It does not start off the movement by giving it some kind of push, but it is the purpose, or end, or the teleology, of the movement. This is important for Aristotle, because he thought that an effective cause, giving a push, would be affected itself by the act of pushing. Aristotle believed the prime mover causes things to move by attraction . God draws things to himself and remains unaffected. The stars and the planets move out of a spiritual desire to imitate God. They do this by moving in eternal circles.


What are the strengths of the Prime Mover argument?

It has parallels to God, so is readily accepted by people of judea-christian faith.
It is logical to believe that there has to be a start point
Based on then principle of cause and effect, which we can observe.
The prime mover helps explain how everything achieves its purpose
It could fit in with the big bang theory


What are the weaknesses of Aristotle's prime mover?

Aristotle argues the prime mover can’t
be changed and then suggests that reason can join the pure thought of theprime mover but this doesn’t make sense as it would surely change.
He doesn’t really explain what the prime mover is or where it comes from.
 The senses can be fooled –
can theyreally give us knowledge?
 How can the prime mover not be involved in the world and yet still help
things achieve their purpose. It wouldn’t
be up to date.
 Doesn't fit in with the concept of God having a relationship with humans.
If the prime mover is eternal thought, where did the matter that the world is made of come from?
Why does the universe need to have a reason for existence?