Aristotle’s Views on Nature and Causality

posted by Dr. James G. Hood
Friday, May 28, 2010

Aristotle disagreed with certain ideas of his philosophical predecessors. Parmenides argued that change does not exist and that everything is the same because change is logically inconsistent. Aristotle refutes this by citing empirical evidence, we can witness change; therefore, change exists. Heraclitus takes a different viewpoint by recognizing the constant flux in all things, yet there exists some aspect of equilibrium in change through the Logos. Aristotle felt that this still did not answer the question of why things change. Plato compromised between Parmenides and Heraclitus by addressing both aspects of change and permanence through the theory of the Forms. Aristotle disagrees with Plato, however, that the world is a mere shadow and that the nature of things is somewhat separate from the sensible world. Democritus’ theory accounts for change, but not the regularity of change.

            Aristotle’s philosophical system incorporates and/or answers the question of change through the theory of 4 causes. The theory systematically outlines the different causes occurring in reality as a material cause, formal cause, efficient cause, or a final cause. In effect, this theory helps explain both the nature of similarities and differences between things and the internal structures of things can be explained.

             Aristotle’s philosophical framework is notable for its sophistication. Particularly of note is how Aristotle solves Democritus’ problem. Aristotle defines matter as a principle of potentiality and form as a principle of actuality. These two principles are not separate but combined in substance. Regularity in change from a mother to her offspring can therefore be accounted for by the principle of the form being transmitted to the offspring. As a result of Aristotle’s ability to consider and sufficiently address the philosophical problems that his predecessors encountered (and more than likely because his empirical methodology is more than appealing to the modernistic mind) Aristotle’s theory seems to be to be the most well reasoned philosophical framework thus far. With Aristotle’s empirical approach, it will be interesting to see how he conceptualizes the soul (if at all) or if the soul is simply another word for a being’s nature.

Works Cited
Cohen, S. Marc., Patricia Curd, and C. Reeve. Readings in Ancient Greek Philosophy: from Thales to Aristotle. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub., 2005. Print.

One Response to “Aristotle’s Views on Nature and Causality”

  1. khood4208 says:

    Yes, I’m learning the ways of the blog. I’m working on it.

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