[1.3.4] Aristotle on Causality, Potentiality, Actuality, Teleology

“The development of potentiality to actuality is one of the most important aspects of Aristotle’s philosophy. It was intended to solve the difficulties which earlier thinkers had raised with reference to the beginnings of existence and the relations of the one and many. The actual vs. potential state of things is explained in terms of the causes which act on things. There are four causes:

  1. Material cause, or the elements out of which an object is created;
  2. Efficient cause, or the means by which it is created;
  3. Formal cause, or the expression of what it is;
  4. Final cause, or the end for which it is.
Aristotle (384-322 BC) on causality, potentiality, actuality, teleology

Take, for example, a bronze statue. Its material cause is the bronze itself. Its efficient cause is the sculptor, insofar has he forces the bronze into shape. The formal cause is the idea of the completed statue. The final cause is the idea of the statue as it prompts the sculptor to act on the bronze. The final cause tends to be the same as the formal cause, and both of these can be subsumed by the efficient cause. Of the four, it is the formal and final which is the most important, and which most truly gives the explanation of an object. The final end (purpose, or teleology) of a thing is realized in the full perfection of the object itself, not in our conception of it. Final cause is thus internal to the nature of the object itself, and not something we subjectively impose on it.”

More about Causality, Potentiality, Actuality, Teleology you can read here, here, here and here.

The source of all citations: Joe Sachs, “Aristotle: Motion and its Place in Nature”, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

First published: 28/03/2019
Updated: 09/04/2019: Added Mean and End.
Updated: 21/04/2019: Added Knowledge

12 thoughts on “[1.3.4] Aristotle on Causality, Potentiality, Actuality, Teleology

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