Aristotle's Four Causes

By Matt Baker email   Updated 8 Jan 2013

Aristotle's four causes can be used to explain why something is the way it is and/or why it changed to become that way.

aristotle four causes

The Material Cause

The material out of which the thing exists

e.g. - A table's material cause is wood.

The Formal Cause

The form in which the thing is arranged

e.g. - A table's formal cause is the idea of an elevated flat surface.

The Efficient Cause

The 'mover' that causes the thing to be or happen

e.g. - A table's efficient cause is the carpenter that made it.

The Final Cause

The purpose for which the thing exists

e.g. - A table's final cause is to be used to place food or other things on


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