38 - The Four Causes What are there four of? 1. Aristotles...

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The Four Causes What are there four of ? 1. Aristotle’s doctrine of the four causes is crucial, but easily misunderstood. It is natural for us (post-Humeans) to think of (what Aristotle calls) “causes” in terms of our latter-day notion of cause-and-effect. This is misleading in several ways: a. Only one of Aristotle’s causes (the “efficient” cause) sounds even remotely like a Humean cause. b. Humean causes are events , and so are their effects, but Aristotle doesn’t limit his causes in that way. Typically, it is substances that have causes. And that sounds odd. 2. But to charge Aristotle with having only a dim understanding of causality is to accuse him of missing a target he wasn’t even aiming at. We must keep this in mind whenever we use the word “cause” in connection with Aristotle’s doctrine. 3. We will begin with the question, What is it that Aristotle says there are four of? The Greek word is aition (plural aitia ); sometimes it takes a feminine form, aitia (plural
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38 - The Four Causes What are there four of? 1. Aristotles...

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