Metaphysica (Metaphysics) by Aristotle, Book Α, c. 3
Filed under: Reader of the Stack Goes Canonical — Ibis at 2:25 pm on Saturday, May 2, 2009

Book Alpha
3. The successive recognition by earlier philosophers of the material, efficient, and final causes


  • recap of the four types of causes: material (of what a thing consists), formal (how a thing results from patterns or laws), efficient (the agent of change), and final (to what end)
  • earliest philosophers focused on material causes, trying to figure out what the basis of the existence of things is (i.e. what is the cosmos made of?)
  • different philosophers saw different “elements” as primary (e.g. water, air, fire, four principal elements, infinite elements)
  • from material causes, speculation grew respecting the efficient cause of the cosmos—why do things come to be and be destroyed?
  • some proposed a single unchanged actor (Nature) that was the efficient cause of change
  • though some thought change was random, that idea was considered by others as unseemly

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