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Cause and Explanation in Ancient Greek Thought$
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R. J. Hankinson

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780199246564

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0199246564.001.0001

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Aristotle: Explanation and Nature

Aristotle: Explanation and Nature

Chapter:
(p.125) IV Aristotle: Explanation and Nature
Source:
Cause and Explanation in Ancient Greek Thought
Author(s):

R. J. Hankinson (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0199246564.003.0005

In this chapter, Hankinson discusses Aristotle's conceptions of nature, change, and potentiality; the four causes, spontaneity, and chance; teleology and hypothetical necessity; and also Aristotle's account of action, freedom, and responsibility. The choice facing Greek philosopher‐scientists is simple: show how a structured, regular world could arise out of undirected processes, or pursue a teleological explanation, insisting on the activity of divine intelligence in the cosmos. Aristotle, Hankinson writes, pursues a middle way between these options, although, ultimately, Aristotle takes the whole structure of the cosmos to be teleologically organized. Aristotle rejects Plato's metaphysics of perfect hypostasized forms and divinely directed teleology: relying heavily on his concept of phusis or nature, Aristotle makes teleology an internal principle governing the development of natural objects. Aristotle distinguishes four causes or causal factors in explanation: matter, form, agent, and end, and he distinguishes sharply between regular natural events that can be explained by means of these causes, and chance events, which do not admit full explanation.

Keywords:   action, change, form, freedom, matter, Nature, potentiality, responsibility, spontaneity and chance, teleology, the four causes

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