Aristotle’s Four Causes Explained Briefly

Someone requested me to help him understand what it is meant by Aristotle’s Four Causes. This post is upon that request in a simpler form, so that any reader can grasp the general understanding of Aristotelian Four Causes.

Aristotle’s Four Causes are his attempt to explain why individual things are as they are in the world. These four causes are as follows:

(a) Formal Cause: It has to do with the form of the things in which something is changed, and it reflects the ideal form or characteristics of what the object is. It has potential to become something from something else. For example, the acorn has a potential to become an oak tree.

(b) Material Cause: It is the material component of which a change is wrought. Some material things came from something else. Like, silver is the material cause of a silverware.

(c) Efficient Cause: In the modern day term, it can be understood as cause-effect in which a change is wrought, or it becomes the primary source of change. In this case, sculpture is the efficient cause of a statue.

(d) Final Cause: It involves purpose or goal of a thing’s action in the end where the change is produced. It is moving toward the ultimate purpose. For instance, the final purpose of an oak tree is to become furniture or something made of wood.

We can understand these four cause in a given example of a marble statue. The material cause of a marble statue is marble. The efficient cause of the marble statue is the sculpture. The formal cause of the marble has its potentiality to become something other than statue or statue. And the final cause of the marble statue can become a purposeful element to decorate houses, park or museum. 


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