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  • Created by: Chantal
  • Created on: 24-04-13 10:17


  • Mini Biography
  • Causality (Material, Efficient, Formal, Final)
  • Prime Mover
  • Origins
  • Strengths and Weaknesses
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Mini Biography

  • Great admirer of Plato but found it difficult to agree with his views
  • He did not accept there is another world  as he believed the physical world around us is key to knowledge and we can learn about it using our senses
  • Came from well off family and arrived in Athens at 17 to study as a pupil of Plato
  • Founder of many sciences we study today:
    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Meteorology
    • Astronomy
  • Had an insatiable desire to understand the world as it is to our five senses
  • Wanted to see if there are universal rules which governed natural processes which we could understand
  • Plato left his academy to his nephew and not Aristotle
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Causality- Origins

  • Why are things the way they are- what caused them? What is the ‘essence’ of this thing or that thing? Why does it exist in the world at all?
  • Wanted to discover how change occurs and why
  • Recognised something can have several different explanations for its existence  on different levels
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  • Material cause-
    • What something is made form
    • Does not explain everything  but should not be ignored
    • Eg chair is made from wood
  • Efficient cause-
    • Activity that makes something happen
    • Who made it
    • Actualising of potential
    • Brings about change in something
    • Eg wood has the potential to be made into furniture but needs the efficient cause of the carpenter to realise this potential
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Causality Continued

  • Formal cause-
    • The form or shape something has
    • Gives something its shapes and allows it to be identified
    • Certain characteristics it has in order to be recognised
    • Eg there are many shapes a chair can be but all have certain characteristics
  • Final cause-
    • Most important
    • It’s purpose, reason for existing
    • It’s telos (end)
    • Eg final cause of a chair is that it can be put to use for sitting
    • Something is good when it reaches it’s telos (end) humans purpose= Eudomonia
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Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Strengths:
    • The theory makes sense
    • Can be related to anything/ everything
    •  Rational reasoning /Scientifically plausible
    •  Based on the physical world, relatable
    • Gives everything a purpose
    • Sensible and useful way of thinking about chain of causes and effects  Can be defended as it is derived from reflection on studies of the natural world
  • Weaknesses-
    • Giving everything a purpose could be seen as wishful thinking, a reaction to a harsh and horrible world
    • Lacks clarity
    • How do we know material world is the source of true knowledge?
    • Makes sense things have final cause but how do we establish final cause?
    •  Why must everything have a purpose? universe could be entirely random like
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Prime Mover- Origins

  • He had found a way to of understanding, at different levels, the causes of individual objects within the universe but what about the universe itself?
  • What causes the different objects in the universe to actualise their potential (efficient cause)
  • What is the purpose of the universe as a whole? (final cause)
  • Realised the universe was in a constant state of change and motion therefore there must be some kind of efficient cause to make this happen
  • Considered the idea there might be an endless chain of cause (infinite regress) and effect but rejected this idea because endless cause and effect was a unsatisfactory solution
  • Cause of the universe must be the prime mover
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Prime Mover

  • Be a cause which actualises the potential
  • Be something that causes without being affected
  •  A being with no potential (something which is everything that it could be)
  • First of all substances
  • Does not cause movement and change in a physical way as the act of ‘pushing’ would affect the prime mover
  • Causes motion and change by being the object for desire and love in the world
  •  Everything in the world is drawn towards its perfection and wants to imitate it
  •  He does not depend on anything else for his existence, if he did he would be subject to change
  • Must be eternal because if he cannot change then he cannot cease to be and if he exists then he must have always existed
  • Must be perfectly good because badness is a lack of something and he is pure actuality so contains everything that ought to be there
    • Must be immaterial, beyond time and space. Matter is capable of being changed
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Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Strengths:
    • Gives everything a reason/purpose
    • Perfection is something for all to strive for
    • Explains relationship between movement and change
    • Explains Aristotle’s ‘final cause’
    • Enormous influence on Christian thinking- God is cause of existence
  • Weaknesses:
    • Aristotle is an empiricist (knowledge gained from sense) but prime mover is immaterial
    • Similar to Plato’s form of the good which Aristotle is against
    • Lack of evidence
    • Why is the prime mover needed, why not infinite regress?
    • Not fully, successfully explained
    • The belief the universe must have  telos has been criticised by many including Russell and Dawkins who say things are result of chance
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