Teleological Causation

David Charles

in The Oxford Handbook of Aristotle

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780195187489
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Teleological Causation

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Aristotle introduces the fourth cause, the teleological cause, in Physics II 3, based on the idea of something's being for the sake of a goal: the good to be achieved. The goal causes an activity to occur or an instrument to exist. They happen or exist because of some good that results from them. While Aristotle discerns teleological causation in a wide range of cases, these passages contain his key thought. Some things happen or exist because of some further good they help to produce. Aristotle's use of the teleological cause constitutes one of the most distinctive aspects of his philosophy. Hypothetical necessity is appropriate in characterizing teleological causation. In the Physics, Aristotle compares craft and nature as teleological causes. Many philosophers reject his account of rational agents as acting on the basis of their sensitivity to what is in fact good for them. Many more will not accept Aristotle's account of teleological causation as applied to natures and organisms.

Keywords: Aristotle; teleological causes; teleological causation; Physics; philosophy; hypothetical necessity; nature; organisms; craft; rational agents

Article.  22228 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Classical Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science

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