Friday, February 10, 2006

Aristotle's formal and final causes

Aristotle's teleology isn't just an insistence on respecting the final cause: it also sets up relationships between the four causes, e.g. linking the formal and final causes together very closely:
The formal cause constitutes the essence of something whereas the final cause is the purpose of something. For example, Aristotle believed the tongue to be for the purpose of talking. If the tongue was for the purpose of talking (final cause), then it had to be shaped in a certain way, wide and supple so that it might form subtle differences in sound (formal cause). In this way the purpose of the tongue for speaking dovetails with the structural way it might be brought about (P.A. 660a 27-32).
[From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.]

This view of that-for-the-sake-of-which sets up an undying enmity between teleology and nominalism. Without essences--or real kinds in modern speak--there is no purposefulness.

This is going to be turned into an observation on natural law soon, perhaps after happy hour.


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