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What are the four causes as defined by Aristotle?
Scientific knowledge provides causal explanations of real kinds of things. Aristotle asserted that there are four causes: formal, material, efficient, and final. The formal cause of your dog is what makes the animal a dog—it is its dog essence. The material cause of the dog is the physical stuff of which it is made—its matter. (Aristotle believed that matter or physical reality is the same in all things but uniquely informed by their specific forms.)
The efficient cause of the dog is its birth and the food and water it consumes. The final cause of the dog is its ultimate purpose or function as a dog—its full development as a dog and its ability to be a loyal friend and helper to human beings in general, and because it is your dog—"yours" in particular. Form is the actuality of a substance and matter is its potential. The particular puppy you first brought home had the physical potential to become the fully excellent creature it grew into.
What is Aristotle' notion of the "unmoved mover"?
According to Aristotle, all of nature develops, changes, comes into being, and passes out of being through the operations of the four causes. However— and here Aristotle's metaphysics and philosophy of science take on a theological tone, not unlike Plato's—causal chains cannot be infinite, so there must be a first cause, something that is not itself caused, an "unmoved mover." The unmoved mover that is the cause of everything cannot be an efficient, material, or even a formal cause, because all of those are contained in things that exist. The unmoved mover is the ultimate final cause, that to which everything is aiming. It is the greatest good and the purpose of life, and Aristotle tells us that it is "nous"—or mind—and its essence is thought, which is always active. It thinks about itself: nous contemplating nous.
What was Aristotle's theory of the virtues?
Aristotle believed that virtue, or moral goodness, is a form of practical wisdom. It is neither determined by nature, nor is it precluded by nature; it is the result of thought, action, and habit. However, not everyone can be virtuous, according to Aristotle. His necessary conditions for virtue included: high social status, wealth, good looks, being male, and being a free citizen. The specific virtues Aristotle talked about were limited to the traits admired in the ruling classes of the ancient world: pride, generosity, courage, nobility, temperance. This was partly the result of snobbery, and partly due to his sense that the practice of virtue required freedom from labor and drudgery. Still, Aristotle's ideas about how virtue is acquired and practiced can be made relevant to all adults in our own more democratic times. Moreover, we can add the virtues we care about (for example, compassion) to his limited list.
Aristotle thought that we become virtuous, first through proper training as children and second by doing the acts that correspond to the virtues in question. For example, to become courageous, it is necessary to perform courageous acts over a period of time. Virtue for human beings (as for all other things) is the excellence of what makes them human, and what makes us human is our reason, our ability to think actively. Therefore, it is important that we deliberate before acting in ways that will develop our virtues. For example, the courageous acts performed by a courageous person must be done for the right reasons.
The virtuous actions of good people will be performed because they already have the virtues in question. But every situation is unique, which is why virtuous action calls for rational deliberation beforehand. Aristotle advised that a good rule of practical reason is to aim for the middle or mean. courage, for example, is usually somewhere between cowardice and fool-heartedness. In aiming for the mean in this way, we
Did Aristotle lack a sense of humor?
Aristotle's writing style is magisterial, but his surviving texts are uniformly sober and dry, despite their overall common sense. We can't know what he was like personally, although he was described as having been thin and bald, speaking with a lisp, and displaying a sardonic disposition. When he retired to Chalcis, in the wake of anti-Macedonian reactions in Athens after Alexander died (325 b.c.e.), he is said to have remarked that he did so "lest the Athenians should sin twice against philosophy"—a thinly veiled reference to the trial of Socrates.
should over-correct for our known faults. Thus, because we tend to be fond of pleasure, we should subject choices that are pleasant to a special scrutiny.
Was anything absolutely wrong in Aristotle's view?
Yes. Aristotle thought that some actions were wrong in themselves and did not allow for moderation or for a mean—for example, adultery and murder.
Did Aristotle think that morality had a purpose or "final cause"?
Yes. Aristotle thought that in human life—as in nature, generally—everything has a purpose and there cannot be an infinite regress of purposes (that is, there is an "unmoved mover") Because we are goal-directed, there must be some goal that is valuable to us in itself, and not because it will lead to some other goal. The goal that is good in and of itself is happiness. Aristotle thought that happiness is not pleasure or any other feeling, but a quality that settles over life when we are actualizing our essence by behaving virtuously for the right reasons. Our essence is our rationality.
What did Aristotle think about government and politics?
Aristotle believed that human beings are social by nature, so the right form of government is necessary to support happy and self-sufficient citizens. He posited three main forms of government, each of which could degenerate: monarchy that could fall into tyranny; aristocracy that could fall into oligarchy (rule by a few based on wealth); and polity that could fall into democracy. Like Plato, Aristotle viewed democracy as mob rule because the great masses of people in their day were uneducated and unrefined. Aristotle thought that the best form of government was polity, a kind of democratic rule within an aristocratic class, where turns were taken for top positions and all of the privileged members had their say.
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