Posted on 1 January 2020
Aristotle had a remarkable view of causality in nature, which he named as the Final Cause.
When we talk about the ’cause’ of anything, we mean how it happens. The window pane was smashed because Peter hurled a stone through it; a leather shoe is made because the shoemaker sews pieces of leather together.
But Aristotle held that there were different types of causes in nature.
Altogether he named four different causes. It is import here to understand what he meant by what he called the Final Cause.
In the case of window smashing, it is quite reasonable to ask why Peter threw the stone. We are thus asking what his purpose was. There can be no doubt that purpose played a role as Peter must have had a reason for throwing the stone. The same principle can be applied to the shoemaker. He or she makes shoes for a purpose, probably to earn a living.
But what about rain?
Aristotle assigns the raindrops a life-task, or ‘purpose.’ We would probably turn the whole thing upside down and say that plants grow because they find moisture.
Aristotle believed that there is a purpose behind everything in nature. It rains so that plants can grow; oranges and grapes grow so that people can eat them. That is not the nature of scientific reasoning today.
We say that food and water are necessary conditions of life for man and beast. Had we not had these conditions we would not have existed. But it is not the purpose of water or oranges to be food for us. In the question of causality then, we are tempted to say that Aristotle was wrong.
But let us not be too hasty. Many people believe that God created the world as it is so that all His creatures could live in it. Viewed in this way, it can naturally be claimed that there is water in the rivers because animals and humans need water to live. But now we are talking about God’s purpose.
The raindrops and the waters of the river have no interest in our welfare.
Aristotle died in 322 BC of natural causes.
Image from britannica.com