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Aristotle's Four Causes

Boris Hennig

This book examines Aristotle’s four causes (material, formal, efficient, and final), offering a systematic discussion of the relation between form and matter, causation, taxonomy, and teleology. The overall aim is to show that the four causes form a system, so that the form of a natural thing relates to its matter as the final cause of a natural process relates to its efficient cause. Aristotle’s Four Causes reaches two novel and distinctive conclusions. The first is that the formal cause or essence of a natural thing is not a property of this thing but a generic natural thing. The second is that the final cause of a process is not its purpose but the course that processes of its kind typically take.

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Chapter 3. Tode, Ti, Toionde



Tode, Ti, Toionde

This chapter and the following one are about the question of what matter is. This is not necessarily the same as asking what the material cause is. The material cause persists in that of which it is a cause, and there is a sense in which the matter of a natural thing does not persist in this thing. After briefly considering various attempts at saying what it is to be the matter of a material thing, I will focus on an idea that Aristotle articulates in Metaphysics Z 3: that matter is what remains when we take away all form. I will ask how to take away all forms from a thing, and argue that one may do so by taking a complex noun phrase of the form “this something” (tode ti) and deleting all parts of it that have any kind of descriptive content. This leaves us with a mere “this” (tode), which may be taken to refer to the matter of a thing. I will suggest the formula (tode + ti) + toionde in order to bring out the distinction between the matter of a thing, its paradigmatic form, and its properties. I do not mean to imply that tode always refers to the matter of a thing, or that ti and toionde always refer to paradigmatic forms and properties, respectively. Still, the formula (tode + ti) + toionde will be useful for illustrating certain important distinctions. In Section 3.5...

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