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Aristotle on Teleology (Book, ) [mesolmajure.ga]

Taylor, C. Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer. Keywords: Aristotle, Teleology, metaphysics. Abstract There are some passages within the Aristotelian corpus that indicate that Aristotle argued for a wider and more cosmic teleology than he is usually understood to have held. Downloads Download data is not yet available.

References Barnes, Jonathan, ed.

Guthrie, W. Aristotle: An Encounter. Nussbaum, Martha. Sedley, David. Wardy, Robert. It rains because of material processes which can be specified as follows: when the warm air that has been drawn up is cooled off and becomes water, then this water comes down as rain Phys.

It may happen that the corn in the field is nourished or the harvest is spoiled as a result of the rain, but it does not rain for the sake of any good or bad result. The good or bad result is just a coincidence Phys. So, why cannot all natural change work in the same way? For example, why cannot it be merely a coincidence that the front teeth grow sharp and suitable for tearing the food and the molars grow broad and useful for grinding the food Phys.

When the teeth grow in just this way, then the animal survives. When they do not, then the animal dies. More directly, and more explicitly, the way the teeth grow is not for the sake of the animal, and its survival or its death is just a coincidence Phys. Aristotle's reply is that the opponent is expected to explain why the teeth regularly grow in the way they do: sharp teeth in the front and broad molars in the back of the mouth.

Moreover, since this dental arrangement is suitable for biting and chewing the food that the animal takes in, the opponent is expected to explain the regular connection between the needs of the animal and the formation of its teeth. Either there is a real causal connection between the formation of the teeth and the needs of the animal, or there is no real causal connection and it just so happens that the way the teeth grow is good for the animal.

In this second case it is just a coincidence that the teeth grow in a way that it is good for the animal. But this does not explain the regularity of the connection. Where there is regularity there is also a call for an explanation, and coincidence is no explanation at all.

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In other words, to say that the teeth grow as they do by material necessity and this is good for the animal by coincidence is to leave unexplained the regular connection between the growth of the teeth and the needs of the animal. Aristotle offers final causality as his explanation for this regular connection: the teeth grow in the way they do for biting and chewing food and this is good for the animal. One thing to be appreciated about Aristotle's reply is that the final cause enters in the explanation of the formation of the parts of an organism like an animal as something that is good either for the existence or the flourishing of the animal.

In the first case, something is good for the animal because the animal cannot survive without it; in the second case, something is good for the animal because the animal is better off with it.

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Once his defense of the use of final causes is firmly in place, Aristotle can make a step further by focusing on the role that matter plays in his explanatory project. Let us return to the example chosen by Aristotle, the regular growth of sharp teeth in the front and broad molars in the back of the mouth. What explanatory role is left for the material processes involved in the natural process? Aristotle does not seem to be able to specify what material processes are involved in the growth of the teeth, but he is willing to recognize that certain material processes have to take place for the teeth to grow in the particular way they do.

In other words, there is more to the formation of the teeth than these material processes, but this formation does not occur unless the relevant material processes take place. For Aristotle, these material processes are that which is necessary to the realization of a specific goal; that which is necessary on the condition on the hypothesis that the end is to be obtained. Physics II 9 is entirely devoted to the introduction of the concept of hypothetical necessity and its relevance for the explanatory ambition of Aristotle's science of nature.

In this chapter matter is reconfigured as hypothetical necessity.

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By so doing Aristotle acknowledges the explanatory relevance of the material processes, while at the same time he emphasizes their dependency upon a specific end. In the Physics , Aristotle builds on his general account of the four causes in order to provide the student of nature with the explanatory resources indispensable for a successful investigation of the natural world. However, the Physics does not provide all the explanatory resources for all natural investigations. Aristotle returns to the topic of causality in the first book of the Parts of Animals.

This is a relatively independent and self-contained treatise entirely devoted to developing the explanatory resources required for a successful study of animals and animal life. Here Aristotle completes his theory of causality by arguing for the explanatory priority of the final cause over the efficient cause.

Significantly enough, there is no attempt to argue for the existence of four fundamental modes of causality in the first book of the Parts of Animals. Evidently, Aristotle expects his reader to be already familiar with his general account of the four causes as well as his defense of final causality.

Man, God, and Rain: Is Aristotelian Teleology Hierarchical?

The problem that here concerns Aristotle is presented in the following way: since both the final and the efficient cause are involved in the explanation of natural generation, we have to establish what is first and what is second PA b 12— Aristotle argues that there is no other way to explain natural generation than by reference to what lies at the end of the process. This has explanatory priority over the principle that is responsible for initiating the process of generation.

Aristotle relies on the analogy between artistic production and natural generation, and the teleological model that he has developed for the explanation of artistic production. Consider, for example, house-building. There is no other way to explain how a house is built, or is being built, than by reference to the final result of the process, the house. More directly, the bricks and the beams are put together in the particular way they are for the sake of achieving a certain end: the production of the house.

This is true also in the case of natural generation. This means that the proper way to explain the generation of an organism like an animal, or the formation of its parts, is by reference to the product that lies at the end of the process; that is to say, a substance of a certain type. From Aristotle we learn that Empedocles explained the articulation of the human spine into vertebrae as the result of the twisting and turning that takes place when the fetus is in the womb of the mother.

Aristotle finds this explanation unacceptable PA a 19— To begin with, the fetus must have the power to twist and turn in the way it does, and Empedocles does not have an explanation for this fact. Secondly, and more importantly, Empedocles overlooks the fact that it takes a man to generate a man. That is to say, the originating principle of the generation is a fully developed man which is formally the same as the final outcome of the process of generation.

It is only by looking at the fully developed man that we can understand why our spine is articulated into vertebrae and why the vertebrae are arranged in the particular way they are. This amounts to finding the role that the spine has in the life of a fully developed man. Moreover, it is only by looking at the fully developed man that we can explain why the formation of the vertebrae takes place in the particular way it does.

For further information about the explanatory priority of the final over the efficient cause, see Code , pp. Perhaps we are now in the position to understand how Aristotle can argue that there are four types of causes and at the same time say that proper knowledge is knowledge of the cause or knowledge of the why APost. Admittedly, at least at first sight, this is a bit confusing.

Of course this does not mean that the other causes can be eliminated. Schofield and M. Craven Nussbaum eds. Gotthelf, Mathesis Publications, Pittsburgh , p.

Friedman [] — R. Furley [] — D. Gotthelf [] — A. Reprinted in A. Gotthelf ed. Gotthelf, Lennox [] — A. Gotthelf, Lennox [b] — A. Judson [] — L. Kelsey [] — S. Kirk, Raven, Schofield [] — G. Kirk, J. Raven, and M. Lear [] — J. Lennox [] — J. Leunissen [] — M. Meyer [] — S. Nussbaum [] — M. Preus [] — A. Olms, Hildesheim and New York