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Aristotle's teleology and the doctrine of the four causes

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  1. Introduction
  2. The standard for scientific knowledge
  3. Overcoming the problem faced by previous philosophers
  4. Proposing the conception of reality
  5. The first level of explanation
  6. Aristotle's four causes
  7. Conclusion
  8. Works cited

In Aristotle's Physics, he presents his teleological theory of nature as comprised of changing materials which are to be understood in terms of the factors that brought them about, particularly their final causes (i.e. the function that they ultimately exist to serve). In his view, wisdom is a special class of knowledge that craftspeople and scientists attain by comprehending the fundamental causes behind the materials they manipulate and observe rather than simply describing their immediately perceptible qualities. This essay will first introduce Aristotle's argument for the reality of change taking place in the natural world, in contrast to earlier philosophers who viewed all instances of ?change? as the result of inconsistent sensory perceptions.

[...] After arguing for a view of reality which allows for transformations in the forms of existing things, a proposition that struck earlier philosophers as illogical, Aristotle explains his teleological view of the natural world and the utility of studying his doctrine of the four causes. His overall goal is to propose a conception of reality in which natural things do not change randomly or by chance, but (for the most part) tend to change in certain directions for particular reasons that are open to human discovery. [...]


[...] If everything existed as one contrary or another, then the concept of change would not properly apply because no part of the thing in question would remain consistent as ?that which changed from X to Rather, X would blink out of existence and Y would blink into existence. say that one substance is not contrary to another. How, then, could a non-substance be prior to a substance?? (Physics, 189a, 33-35). To resolve this issue and allow for the possibility of change in objects (things coming to be from other things already in existence), Aristotle identifies the principles of any type of natural transformation as form, privation and matter. [...]

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