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final cause

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


M etaphysics, philosophy of science [from Latin finis , end or purpose, the equivalent of Greek telos ] According to Aristotle 's theory of explanation , a final cause is one of four causes , the others being the material, formal, and efficient causes. His expression for a final cause is to hou heneka (Greek, for the sake of which). By appealing to a final cause, we explain a thing through its goal or end. An explanation based on a final cause is called a teleological explanation (from telos ). In Metaphysics , Aristotle argued that form , as primary substance, is the final cause and that as final cause form is actuality. In his physical works, Aristotle made extensive use of final causes in explaining the generation and structure of natural things and their parts. He also claimed that as the unmoved mover, God is the final cause of the world. His teleology deeply influenced the later development of Western philosophy of science, although much modern philosophy of science has been hostile to teleology, either by denying it entirely or by reducing it to standard causal relations. Discussion of teleological or functional explanations remains active in philosophy of biology and philosophy of social science. “The final cause is an end, and that sort of end which is not for the sake of something else, but for whose sake everything else is; so that if there is to be a last ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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