Influences forming Plato’s views of the world workbook answers

Aristotle: four causes and the unmoved mover

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Aristotle: four causes and the unmoved mover

1 Socrates taught Plato, who taught Aristotle, who taught Alexander the Great.

2 Aristotle understands ‘cause’ in a number of ways. Hume is talking specifically about cause and effect. The closest to Hume’s understanding would be that of Aristotle’s efficient cause. Hume, however, suggests that causal necessity is something brought about in our minds by the constant conjunction of certain objects and the feeling that they have a necessary connection in our minds.

3 In Aristotle’s writings, unlike Plato’s, we find the concept of Form used in much the same way as we might today. They were not, as it were, in another dimension casting shadows that make up our world of appearances; they are the materials of all that we see around us.

4 Material cause: if you were looking at the statue known as the Pieta, it would be the marble of which it is composed. Any similar answer would demonstrate that you have thought about this issue and not just memorised what you have read in a textbook.

5 Here you might describe the image of the Blessed Virgin holding her dead son in her arms. This is what makes the statue a particular piece of art and not some Platonic Form casting a shadow from another dimension.

6 Following on from the above example, you could describe Michelangelo as the efficient cause for the Pieta; Heatherwick as the efficient cause of the Olympic cauldron or any efficient cause you can think of — check with your teacher after you have considered this.

7 There is a whole range of final causes for you to choose from: for example, the final cause of this book you are using is, I hope, to give you a better understanding of philosophy of religion and a better examination result. You could choose either or both. This question encourages you to think of a number of final causes and perhaps discuss them with other students.

8 Aristotle’s argument needs to be considered in the light of scientific knowledge in his age. You could argue that he might take a different view if he were a philosopher today. Alternatively, you could argue that in general he may believe that purpose helps us understand what a thing is for the most part; even that evolution may remove things that no longer have a purpose.

9 Clearly, as there is no evidence for a Platonic realm of Forms and as it is natural for us to believe what we see or feel, our natural instinct is to trust our senses, which would put Aristotle ahead in any attempt to understand reality. However, modern science and quantum theory ask us to trust in a science that we by definition cannot see, so you might explore the question of how much or little we actually know of the universe.

10 Some philosophers may look at Aristotle’s attempts to understand what makes a thing good and the extent to which a thing ceases to be what it is if it has no function. So, for example, an eye is no longer an eye if it is in a jar and not fulfilling its purpose. In this sort of debate those studying Religious Ethics can take a holistic approach and explore the need to understand purpose to hold natural law as an ethical theory.

11 Potentiality is the ‘possibility’ or ‘possibilities’ a thing might be said to have. Potentiality is linked to the material cause in Aristotelian philosophy, and actuality is linked to form. Actuality is more fundamental for Aristotle as he maintained that we cannot think of something as a potential without also thinking of the actuality it might become. Having linked actuality with form, which is in return related to substance, it is the most fundamental thing that there is.

12 For Aristotle, motion is more than someone throwing a rugby ball or running in a sports event; it includes the idea of change. For example: when a girl becomes a woman she has moved from one state to another; or a piece of wood in a fire moves from one state to another. An important distinction is that, unlike Aquinas, Aristotle believed that the universe is also eternal and God therefore is not involved in its creation. Aristotle’s unmoved mover works by attraction as a Final Cause, as a cat is attracted to a saucer of milk.

Later, as you study Aquinas, you will see the importance of this concept for medieval philosophy.

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