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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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A previous version of this book was accepted in 2010 as a Habilitationsschrift by the Universität Leipzig. I have let it simmer for a while, adding new thoughts, changing others, and finally rewriting several entire sections in 2014. Work on different parts of this book has been made possible by the Volkswagen Stiftung, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, and the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung. While I worked on it, I have taught and learned at the Humboldt Universität Berlin, the Universität Hamburg, the University of Pittsburgh, and Ryerson University, Toronto. I have profited from comments and suggestions by the following (in alphabetical order): James Allen, Jonathan Beere, Klaus Corcilius, Dwayne Ford, Allan Gotthelf, Ingvar Johansson, Jim Lennox, Katherine Munn, Christof Rapp, Burkhard Reis, Stephan Schmid, Benjamin Schnieder, Pirmin Stekeler-Weithofer, Catherine Stinson, Michael Thompson, and two anonymous reviewers for the Journal of Philosophy. Klaus Jacobi and Dominik Perler have inspired some of the thoughts and questions in this book. Elaine Bartlett has proofread an intermediate draft for English style and orthography.←ix | x→ ←x | 1→

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