ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY. 2nd Session, September the 22nd, 2011.
Minutes: on causality.
Aristotle, MF, α.
MF 994a1-16:Ἀλλὰ μὴν ὅτι γ’ ἔστιν ἀρχή τις καὶ οὐκ ἄπειρα τὰ/ αἴτια τῶν ὄντων οὔτ’ εἰς εὐθυωρίαν οὔτε κατ’ εἶδος, δῆλον./ οὔτε γὰρ ὡς ἐξ ὕλης τόδ’ ἐκ τοῦδε δυνατὸν ἰέναι εἰς ἄπειρον/ (οἷον σάρκα μὲν ἐκ γῆς, γῆν δ’ ἐξ ἀέρος, ἀέρα δ’ ἐκ πυρός,/ καὶ τοῦτο μὴ ἵστασθαι), οὔτε ὅθεν ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κινήσεως (οἷον/ ἡλίου, τὸν δὲ ἥλιον ὑπὸ τοῦ νείκους, καὶ τούτου μηδὲν εἶναι/ πέρας)· ὁμοίως δὲ οὐδὲ τὸ οὗ ἕνεκα εἰς ἄπειρον οἷόν τε ἰέναι,/ βάδισιν μὲν ὑγιείας ἕνεκα, ταύτην δ’ εὐδαιμονίας, τὴν δ’ εὐδαιμο-/ νίαν ἄλλου, καὶ οὕτως ἀεὶ ἄλλο ἄλλου ἕνεκεν εἶναι· καὶ ἐπὶ (10)/ τοῦ τί ἦν εἶναι δ’ ὡσαύτως. τῶν γὰρ μέσων, ὧν ἐστί/ τι ἔσχατον καὶ πρότερον, ἀναγκαῖον εἶναι τὸ πρότερον αἴτιον/ τῶν μετ’ αὐτό. εἰ γὰρ εἰπεῖν ἡμᾶς δέοι τί τῶν τριῶν αἴτιον,/ τὸ πρῶτον ἐροῦμεν· οὐ γὰρ δὴ τό γ’ ἔσχατον, οὐδενὸς γὰρ τὸ/ τελευταῖον· ἀλλὰ μὴν οὐδὲ τὸ μέσον, ἑνὸς γάρ (οὐθὲν δὲ (15)/ διαφέρει ἓν ἢ πλείω εἶναι, οὐδ’ ἄπειρα ἢ πεπερασμένα).
There is a qualitative definition and a finite number of the causes of things. The ΑΙΤΙΑΙ are ARXAI. This is the first meaning of causes being principles. The “wherefrom” things come from and “where of” they get their origin: ΤΑ ΟΝΤΑ are principally “caused”. Intelligibility implies that the causes are provided with a limit: ΟΥΚ ΑΠΕΙΡΑ.
(994a.) Ἀλλὰ μὴν ὅτι γ 'ἔστιν ἀρχή τις καὶ οὐκ ἄπειρα τὰ αἴτια τῶν ὄντων
This theory is tested in two ways on two fronts. I. Aristotle interdicts an infinite progression of the causal/effect series, οὔτ 'εἰς εὐθυωρίαν, 994b2. II. The fundamental forms or essential features of causes are not unlimited:— οὔτε κατ' εἶδος, ibid. This is a condicio sine qua non to getting an explanation.
I. Οὔτ 'εἰς εὐθυωρίαν: Here the progression is thought to proceed indefinitely either descending from cause to effect or ascending from effect to cause. One can also think of time anteriority and posteriority.
The line of causality is thus represented by an ordinate axis.
This line contains a structural relationship between an X and a Y, i. e. different entities involved in causation at different moments in time: one happening earlier, the other later. The way an entity develops or is processed through time: X as a child and X as an adult.
The relationship between the two moments can configure:
- Two states of affairs of different things.
- Different things happening at the same time.
- The same thing happening at different times.
- The relationship between X and Y happening at different times, Δ-earlier and Δ-later can happen immediately.
- Coinciding but not having anything to do with each other.
- Or mediately: happening far from each other, but still with an intrinsic connexion between them.
What precedes can be retrospectively seen up to the very first moment of a thing or all things starting to happen. One can in prospect see the deadline or the last moment of everything in general. After that, nothing happens or is not consciously perceived to happen.
The first and last moments of a thing can be reduced to two different moments or presentations of that thing, but are as such irreducible. At the first moment a thing starts to happen other things disappear while others also start up. The first moment of a thing also contains its last moment. The last moment of a thing cancels out the first moment of that thing. A fortiori: all other moments between the first and the last are cancelled out. One thing may end at the precise moment when another begins, and vive versa begin whwn another ends.
One thing is not the first cause of all things and their consequences. Neither can the last moment of all things be reducible to the last moment. The next moment when everything is finished is still in a time dimension that, while not allowing any real determination of what it is, is thought of as having the intrinsic organization of time as such.
II. Οὔτε κατ 'εἶδος
Here the delimitation is horizontally drawn. (See Ross.) Εἶδος means the essential or relevant features of a causal operator. It structures reality in accordance with four fundamental meanings. Traditionally the causes are material, efficient, final or formal. The structuring cause of a thing makes it intelligible. The ΕΙΔΟΣ projects lines of interpretation and explains what and how things are. Usually these lines of interpretation are, if not obscure, merely implicit.
Aristotle’s consideration of the four causes one by one aims to show how none can proceed indefinitely. Each and every one is individually expressed by means of prepositions, thus highlighting the particular “syntactical” structure of reality worked out through causation.
III. Material cause
οὔτε γὰρ ὡς ἐξ ὕλης τόδ 'ἐκ τοῦδε δυνατὸν ἰέναι εἰς ἄπειρον (Οἷον σάρκα μὲν ἐκ γῆς, γῆν δ 'ἐξ ἀέρος, ἀέρα δ' ἐκ πυρός, καὶ τοῦτο μὴ ἵστασθαι)
‘Mater’, ‘Ἡ ὕλη’, ‘the mater X consists in’, ‘ἐξ ὕλης’, ‘this is made of this”, ‘τόδ 'ἐκ τοῦδε’. The ‘EK’ + genitive expresses the material cause that lets us understand a thing in its ‘make up’, as something made of… or consisting of… Aristotle isolates particular elements: fire, air, water, earth and explains the relationship there is between them. The materials a thing is made of or consists of are its ingredients, component parts or constituent elements. From a culinary point of view this provides an answer to the the question: what does it take? We proceed this way when trying to guess the ingredients a dish is made of, once it is already cooked. But we can think of Aristotle’s usual examples: a marble statue, a copper shield, a house of bricks, wooden furniture, etc..
When asking the question about the material ‘make up of’ X, we modify the usual presence of X. If (a…z) are the ingredients of X, X is made of (a…z). The peculiar relationship between a, b, c, …, z and X is expressed prepositionally: X made of (a…z). Matter can be divided into elements, atoms and molecules, but the atom itself can be thought of as composed of subatomic particles: electrons, protons and neutrons, which in turn can be subdivided into quarks. These can be considered as thick, massive and compact or lightweight and thin.
Each quark can be of one of six different types, with different density determinations: up, down, charm, strange, top, bottom. Fundamental relationships are: electromagnetic, gravitational, strong interaction and weak interaction, collision and rotation. Antiquarks are antimatter. They are antagonistic to quark forces. We can see the logic of determining the material cause as a general question about the consistency of something.
IV. Efficient cause
οὔτε ὅθεν ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κινήσεως: where does the principle of change come from?
“Οἷον τὸν μὲν ἄνθρωπον ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀέρος κινηθῆναι, τοῦτον δ 'ὑπὸ τοῦ ἡλίου, τὸν δὲ ἥλιον ὑπὸ τοῦ νείκους, καὶ τούτου μηδὲν εἶναι πέρας (as the man who is carried by the wind, the wind is modified by the sun and the sun is transformed by strife: not true that there is no limit to this principle efficient change)”
X is changed (or moved or altered, or transformed) by Y. The passive voice expresses the relationship between X as the subject undergoing a change produced by the agent Y. A real entity is changed through the agency or action of something different. Reality is the result of an action but described in the passive voice.
The emphasis is placed on the agent introduced by the particle: ὑπό. It has a variable value. It is a formal structure that allows concrete instantiation. This case is concerned in the violent displacement of a person caused by the wind.
Why or how is the man carried way? The man is carried by the wind. Wind is the efficient cause that brings to bear its effect on a man: moves X, drags X, pulls X or takes X from one place to another.
But ΤΙΝΑ Ὑπό τινος κινηθῆναι, can be the wind. Moreover he wind is triggered by the sun. The sun, by strife. Strife is the limit. One cannot ask here what causes the strife itself or hatred between the elements. The point of contention, collision, violent action, is present in each particular case where X is taken by something, dragged, pushed, intervened, acted upon, etc.. Etc. .. The direction of the relationship between a man and wind or wind and heat from the sun, or between the sun and the strife is the same. The efficient cause determines the way the effect is brought about by a passive action and the allocation of a given subject, substrate substance.
οὐδὲ τὸ οὗ ἕνεκα εἰς ἄπειρον οἷόν τε ἰέναι: not just about "in view of ...", "because of ...", "thanks to ...", "the for the sake of which."
“βάδισιν μὲν ὑγιείας ἕνεκα, ταύτην δ 'εὐδαιμονίας, τὴν δ' εὐδαιμονίαν ἄλλου, καὶ οὕτως ἀεὶ ἄλλο ἄλλου ἕνεκεν εἶναι” (Walking is for the sake of health and health is for the sake of well-being, but it also happens that well-being is for the sake of happiness) Happiness is the limit: it is the ultimate ‘for the sake of which’.The same happens also with teleologic causation: τέλος, ἀγαθόν, τὸ οὗ ἕνεκα. The telic character of the expression allows us to understand a completely different reading of one thing or state of affairs, circumstance or situation.
Walking aims at well-being. This is the limit from which several lines are drawn retrospectively to guide our actions. What we do has a purpose. Otherwise, it is in vain and empty.
καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ τί ἦν εἶναι δ 'ὡσαύτως.
Τῶν γὰρ μέσων, ὧν ἐστί τι ἔσχατον καὶ πρότερον, ἀναγκαῖον εἶναι τὸ πρότερον αἴτιον τῶν μετ 'αὐτό. εἰ γὰρ εἰπεῖν ἡμᾶς δέοι τί τῶν τριῶν αἴτιον, τὸ πρῶτον ἐροῦμεν · οὐ γὰρ δὴ τό γ 'ἔσχατον, οὐδενὸς γὰρ τὸ τελευταῖον · ἀλλὰ μὴν οὐδὲ τὸ μέσον, ἑνὸς γάρ
The formal cause is expressed in many ways by Aristotle. This is one of the most puzzling: ‘What is it to be an X?’. Being what it is happens to this thing that exists here in the way it is. The essential aspect of something features in the several things that exist in that particular way. This thing here is not a feature, or an essential aspect. I do not sit down on a idea or on an essential feature of a chair. I sit down on the chair. This chair here is the sort of thing that has what it takes for it to be what it is. The form lets this exact thing take what it needs to be of that form. We could better understand what is at stake here if we said “to chair”, verb, is the way a ‘chair’, noun, happens. Or the chair is expressed by the adverb: the way the thing chair is.