Value Unit 02
CAUSE & EFFECT
In order to know what something is, it is necessary to know (a) where it comes from, (b) who or what made it; (c) what it's made of; and (d) what it's for. The ancient Greeks called these identifiers the "Four Causes" and they have have a very important function to play in Academic writing too.
The "Four Causes"
According to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, each thing is caused in four ways: material, formal, efficient, and final. It is only when we know what these four causes are can we say that we know what something is. This applies to everything, including abstract concepts, such as Justice and Love. Aristotle uses the example of a statue of the Greek god Zeus as an example, explained in the key terms below.
If you consider a lump of clay, or bronze, not yet made into anything, you could imagine that raw material (the material cause) being made into many different kinds of things. For example, I could use a lump of clay to make a pot, or a cup, or a statue, etc. In other words, the matter (clay) is formed into a particular object or thing: into a statue of Zeus for example. The “form” of something is that which the matter is made into: when the material bronze is fashioned into a statue of Zeus, the formal cause of the object is Zeus.
When you look at a new object for the first time, you will probably ask right away, “what is it for?” In terms of man-made objects and human actions, the final cause of things and actions are what purpose do they function.
A key concept in Greek thought is that of “Aporia”.
Aporia is the sense of being unsettled in your preconceptions when you are suddenly confronted with facts and good reasons that force you to start changing your world view, and to start thinking about things in a totally different way.
This sense of having to rethink your world-view can be unsettling, but it is an essential part of learning. In fact, learning is not possible without aporia.