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Aristotle and philosophy of religion unit 1
Aristotle's four causes
Aristotle identified four causes that explain why a thing or object exists as it does
The material cause
The material cause refers to the matter or substance that something is made from (e.g. a book is
made of paper). The matter that the book is made from is paper.
The formal cause
The formal cause refers to what gives the matter its `form' or `structure'. A book is not just any old
piece of paper, but it is pieces of paper arranged in a particular way.
The efficient cause
The efficient cause refers to the cause of an object or thing existing. In other words, the answer to
`why' the thing exists. A book exists because someone wrote it and printed it. The author of the
book existing rather than it just being a pile of paper.
The final cause
The final cause is concerned with the reason why something is the way it is. This cause is concerned
with the function of anything or objects. If you take the example of a book, you could ask why it is
printed and laid out in the way it is, and of course an answer would be to say that it is laid out in this
way so as to be readable. The final cause is teleological- it is concerned with the function of a
particular object or the reason an action is done. Aristotle is not saying that there is a purpose or sign
of design in nature; he is saying that when you consider any object or thing it has some function which
is the ultimate reason why the thing is as it is.
Aristotle's example of the four causes
Material cause: it is made of marble
Formal cause: it has the shape of a statue
Efficient cause: a mason made it
Final cause: its functions is to be a beautiful statue that honours, remembers or recalls
Plato and Aristotle
Aristotle was taught by Plato and his philosophical work. Many of the areas of study that so
interested Aristotle was first worked on by Plato. However, Aristotle often approached topics of
study in different ways from Plato, which leads to some of Aristotle's philosophy being very
different from Plato's.
Plato and Aristotle are often thought to represent two different approaches to philosophy: Plato
emphasising the world of ideas and reason as the source of knowledge; Aristotle emphasising the
physical world and experience as the basis of knowledge. However, Aristotle's writings always
recognised the value of what he had learned from Plato and many of his books refer continually to
the ideas of Plato.
However, Aristotle's philosophy is different from Plato's in a number of important ways:
1. Aristotle emphasises the value of studying the physical world. Aristotle's approach is
empirical and he is not as concerned as Plato with the world of forms.
2. Aristotle rejected Plato's theory of forms; some of the reasons included the fact that the
relationship between forms and the objects in the physical world was not explained.
3. Aristotle rejects a dualist view of the world and Plato's understanding of the soul.
The prime mover
Aristotle observed that everything that exists was in a permanent state of `movement' or `motion'.
By `motion' Aristotle did not mean moving around or taking a walk. He noticed that everything in the
universe is in a state of change. One example could be the weather. You could also think about the
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Everyday your body changes, you grow and age,
you lose hair and skin cells.
Aristotle observed four things:
1. The physical world was constantly in a state of motion and change.
2. The planets seemed to be moving eternally.
3. Change or motion is always caused by something.
4. Objects in the physical world were in a state of actuality and potentiality.
From these four points Aristotle concludes that there exists something that causes the motion and
change without being moved and that is eternal.…read more
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Aristotle and Christianity
Aquinas came up with the early forms of cosmological arguments
The philosophy of Aristotle is used to explain roman catholic beliefs about the presence of
Jesus in the bread and wine used in the Eucharistic service, the mass
The prime mover idea influenced medieval thinking about the nature of God…read more