An Aristotelian Interpretation


The form indeed is nature rather than matter (193b,8).

Action for an end is present in things which come to be and are by nature. Things are either the result of coincidence or for an end.(199a,5)

Again, `that for the sake of which, or the end, belongs to the same department of knowledge as the means. But the nature is the end or `that for the sake of which. For if a thing undergoes a continuous change and there is a stage which is last, this stage is the end or `that for the sake of which... not every stage that is last claims to be an end, but only that which is best (194a,30).

Aristotle is searching for the first principles of nature. These are the apriori laws that science seeks to understand. Science studies nature which is thought to be the demonstration of axiomatic laws, or apriori principles. Nature is thought to be orderly, having a logical structure, of which reason follows. Nature is thought to act according to Reason or Logic. Not that nature has an anthropomorphic reason, but that nature acts by Reason, or we can say that it has reason, which is to say it has a logical structure.

The reasons for anything being what it is are called the causes.
And there are four essential causes to every phenomena, whether it is natural or man-made.

These four are as such: First, the material cause, of what material something is made of. Second, the efficient cause, of what produced it, or what transformed the material before into a different arrangement. Thirdly, the final cause, of what end something is for. And fourthly, the formal cause, of what class it is, or to what genera or species it belongs.

Of this last cause, the formal, I believe Aristotle did not intend it to denote an actual power or entity in the world. In other words, the formal class is not `something in the world, or any kind of actual or potential power, but is a cause of some particular substance being known as what it is. This is really an explanation of explanation. What I mean is that Aristotle is talking about what causes a substance to be what it is, and this could be understood in terms of physics or in terms of how it is known as such.

The formal cause is not a physical explanation for what causes that substance to be that substance, because there is nothing one can say about substance except in an explanation of it. Neither is he talking about any material substance, explaining what it is or why we say it is such, because this is the material cause explanation. And he is not talking about the efficient means of it coming into the properties and shape of what it is (say table or chicken), because he already does this in the efficient cause kind of explanation. And neither is the formal cause the same as the final cause, since the formal is about the genera/class of which this substance can be rightly known, or of which it significantly resembles, while the final cause is about the end or reason for its development.

Of course Aristotle acknowledges that the end or ideal completion or final maturity must often be that very same kind as the formal class. For example, the final cause or reason for a table is to have something to place things upon, which is exactly the necessary requisite for being known as a table or for being that class of things. Likewise, the final cause or reason for a chicken egg to be what it is is to become a mature chicken, and mature chicken, or the known properties and activities of all chickens is the requisite for such a substance to be known as chicken. What a table IS, or what a chicken IS, is the final cause, the end-completion. And yet, these kinds of causes are not the same kind!

The final cause is of an explanation for ends becoming actualized through some kind of efficient development. Nobody would have even begun to make a table, nor complete one, if there were not first an idea of table (sounds platonic because it is), or without first the reason for a tables existence which is to be something flat to place things on. Without first this reason, there would be no cutting and building (efficient cause) of wood (material cause) into that shape which is the final form of substance that shall serve the final (ultimate first) reason for its existence. Now it is true that this idea of table IS the idea of a formal class, or the requirements of one, namely table, but the reason for its existence, or for its coming into completion, is not the class of tables but is to become those properties or functions of the class of things that we call tables.

Since I do not want to labor too much on this point, although later it comes up, my claim, or interpretation, is that the causes are the essential kinds of explanations for things being what they are. I do not believe the formal cause is any sort of power or real property in the world or even in things as a pattern to be followed, but is instead an idea, in the platonic sense of being fixed and stable but not ontologically prior to its conceptualization, or it could be said to be a necessary set of properties and functions. Now, having claimed this, how is the final cause different?

The final cause is not just a necessary and sufficient condition, nor a classification concept, but is tied to the idea of purpose and reason for being, in that the final cause is the aim, or what the efficient causes are aiming at in their transformation of matter. The formal cause is a kind of `ideal form, having essential properties and functions, though somehow more than just the sum of these, maybe the unity of them; and the not quite perfect, warped table or the deformed, retarded chicken is still thought to be of this ideal or an approximation of it. I must note here that Aristotle might not care for my platonic sense of his ideas but this is nonetheless what he is saying even if he hoped to differentiate from his father.

So, the formal cause is a kind of ideal classification; but the final cause is what is being aimed at by the transformation process. It is the aim or direction for the process to follow. This does sound like the ideal, but the process does not aim at approximating an ideal classification (which is a concept, or a convenient naming) -- it aims at an actual becoming, it directs its efficient energy toward a real possibility of actuality, not toward a final explanation but toward a final completion or maturity of substance, such as becoming the necessary material properties and functions of what we THEN can call table or chicken.

Lets now consider substance, which is maybe where we should have begun. For Aristotle, substance is the primary subject of discourse. It is what we are speaking about, what we are attempting to explain or name, the it of what is it. And what it is is the form, that is, what is intelligible about it, what can be said about it. The essential form, or essence, is what is essentially necessary for it to be what it is, or to be what we know it to be, or rightly speak of it as such. It is that which we must recognize in our knowledge of it. And this form or essence is contingent upon both language and actual substance. It is dependent upon what we actually sense of it or find in it, and dependent upon the language we have to describe it.

Substance is always in motion, always in change. Substance is functional, it is an activity and not a static beingness. It is not A something fixed, but is that which IS existent and in the process of motion, of change. All that is truly stable or permanent is form or essence, concept, and, relatively speaking, matter. Neither is substance just a potential; it is what is real and active. IT is what IS changing. It is what IS real. So, substance is not an abstraction of the Real. It is the real Itself, which is not a mere ultimate concept. It is what any ultimate concept or abstraction is about.

We can analyze substance into matter and form. The matter is what we are referring to, what we are seeing, the individual it (or matter) of our particular study. Complimentary to this, the form is what this (matter) is, or that which we know it to be, that which we can say `it is. Both matter and form, here, are concepts, since the only real substance is the substance itself. The this as a particular is the matter, that which is distinct and unique in time and place, while the such of what `it is is what we can essentially say about it, that is, what is the common class or common property that is essential to this `it being the `such that `it is. The matter is refers to that specific individual thing, that thing over there. The form refers to what kind of thing that is: That is a table. This is really an analysis of substance into what is purely sensible and into what is purely intelligible. But in any kind of actual experience the sensible and the intelligible intertwine.

Another way of interpreting matter and form, or the analysis of substance, is differentiating the body structure of things (substance) from the intelligence of things. Of course I am not suggesting that all things have an intelligence as we think of it in humans. All living things have an intelligence, not to say they all think or that they all are conscious, but in the sense that some kind of intelligence is at work organizing the maturing development and instinctual activity of living things. This is known as the soul of living things, which is their functional intelligence.

Inanimate and artifactual things also have intelligence, or lets say an intelligent aspect, which is their function for something outside themselves. This function is what makes something intelligent to us, meaning that it makes sense, meaning that it fits intelligibly in some scheme or greater activity, meaning that it has an intelligent (functional) use.

So the functional intelligence, in complementing the physical structure aspect of something, is either what is at work Guiding that life-process, or How that object works in a greater scheme of things. And yet, these two types of functional intelligence, which I have designated to two types of things, respectively, are actually involved in both types of things. For the living things too have a functional purpose in some greater ecology; while the artifactual/ inanimate things too have a kind of internal intelligence guiding their development. The reason why I neglected to point this out first is because in the two types of things one kind of functional intelligence seems more apparent than the other.

Lets look at our favorite examples. The functional intelligence of a chicken is, on the more apparent hand, that power/knowledge at work within the body-structure of the chicken that develops chickens and makes chickens behave the way they do, and on the other hand, the functional use of chickens is in their laying eggs, eating stuff, being eaten, or however we functionally view chickens, just as with trees we might view their intelligence in terms of what they give to the forest and the wood they give to us - that is, how they are intelligent (functional) to us. The functional intelligence of a table is, on the hand, the plan of development, and on the more apparent hand, the functional use of being capable of having things placed on it, which is, again, what makes tables intelligent to us.

I am suggesting that the functional intelligence, as a definition of `form analysed out of substance, be considered in these two kinds of light. One seems more appropriate in language to living things, while the other more appropriate to artifactual things. Yet both the living and the artifactual, chickens and tables, have an intelligent plan or pattern to be followed, as well as a functional use Both of these can be thought of as functional intelligences. One, the plan or psyche, is more like an intelligence being functional, while the other, the use, is more like a function being intelligent. I think my points here deserve some consideration. We could say there is an intelligent form, as pattern or plan, within things, which is a bit more appropriate to say concerning living things but it is also true in a sense for artifactual things. Then, we could say there is an intelligent form, as use or function, found in how things externally interact with other things, which is I suppose more appropriately said about artifactual things, though can also be true for living things.

Now, what makes things intelligible is the form, while the matter distinguishes the particular substance in question. What makes something intelligible or recognizable as a certain kind of thing must be either about the physical properties or the functional-use properties. Aristotle seemed to confuse shape with the form in his analysis. But I think there are important reasons for including shape in the physical side, rather than the form side, since shape is a physical attribute and not the use. Shape certainly significantly contributes to a things functional use but it cannot be equated with use. If we were to accept Aristotles mistaken language here, we would either have to think of shape as the use or use as a kind of shape; otherwise, the polarization of matter and form could not include function at all, for if function is to be included in this analysis of substance, which it must be in Aristotles metaphysics, it only makes sense as the polar opposite of physical properties, since use itself is not physical but an activity, a function, or a reason.

I claim that substance can be analyzed into actual properties, not just conceptual entities. And this should not be neglected, since substance for Aristotle is not a mere conceptual abstraction but the actual reality of life and world. In this sense, then, how we recognize substance is according to the sensed physical properties, including shape, and according to the intelligibly recognized functional use. The use, of course, requires necessary and sufficient physical properties, or we could say the essential physical properties serve the use. The most important property in recognizing what a thing is seems to be the shape or the physical pattern. Imagine a stack of flashcards with different images on them, say of chicken shapes, table shapes, tree shapes, typewriter shapes, lamp shapes, etc.

This is generally how we recognize things, that is, recognize the class of this particular shape of thing. Whether or not shape, or necessary conditions of shape, is the most significant property of use (as far as tables it may be) or the most significant property for classification is open to question. There are so many examples to counter this that I will not even try; and so we might conclude here that either Aristotle was embarrassing wrong or translators got something wrong here. I think to say that the form, in the analysis of matter and form, is the shape (which I have heard from philosophy teachers) makes Aristotles metaphysics sound like a kindegarten philosophy.

I have explained the four kinds of causes, which are the four kinds of principles or metaphysical laws, which are the four kinds of explanations or reasons for what a substance is or what it is meant to be. Each are of course essential to anything or any process, except for the formal cause which is only essential to explanation itself and intelligibility. As far as discursive essences go, the formal essence, which is the `eidos, or class, or form of substance, is fundamentally what we are speaking about when speaking about substance. We say this is essentially `such a thing. Why? What qualifies this as such?

The cause or reason for such qualification of essence is of three essential kinds, the material of which it is made, the efficient causes which made it, and the ideal or function for which it is made. In classifying anything, or in naming the essence, or what it is, these three factors can be taken into consideration.

One can ask what are the material properties, the kinds of agencies, and the function to be served (or ideal to be approximated), all of which are necessary and sufficient for this naming. In biology we might look at what is common to all those creatures who intercourse together, or who resemble each other in more ways than other creatures. We might look at what makes a table a table, meaning what are the requirements for being a table, or what is significant about tables that strikes our intelligence. Of course, philosophy has found problems with such a simplification, but I cannot explicate all the potential problems with classes, universal properties, induction, and more.

What I seek to point out here is that certain conditions from within each of the three kinds of causes can be recognized as necessary and essential to a particular grouping. There may be no necessary conditions from one or two of the three causes, but at least one condition out of one of the causes must be necessary; otherwise the naming would be purely arbitrary. I think even a semi-tough nominalist or a family kind of Witty philosopher would have to admit this if I pressed him hard enough - but I wont.

As with tables, it may not be necessary that they be made of wood, though they have to be made of something, and it may not even be necessary that they be created by human agency, since machines can do the job (though still guided by human-made plans), nor is it necessary that they even be created by any tool since I could find a naturally made flat slab, but if this piece of material (made or not by man, though made by some agency) is not intended to be used for (or actually used for) placing things on, then it cannot rightly be called a table. Of course, admittedly, I have just declared that intention of use or actual use is the only final criteria or condition for any artifact to be what it essentially is. And thus, the final cause or the intended functional activity IS the most significant property.

Lets consider chickens. What is or are the final criteria to be a chicken, leaving out the metaphor of being scared (wherever that came from). A chicken must be of a certain kind of material flesh and bone. Agreed, as long as we are speaking of live or recently dead chickens - in other words, fake, plastic chickens are too called chickens but only because they partially imitate Real natural chickens of real flesh and bone. Consider what Im speaking about here. But if its important, Ill give you that one and say that chickens (of all kinds) dont need to be of a certain material.

What about agency? Real chickens come from eggs, which come from sperm impregnating eggs, which come from real chickens, which is an evolutionary process, and there are certain transformations of substance recognized by biologists as necessary to the becoming of real, live chickens. Again, Ill give this one away to party philosophers, if you want.

Now, is there some necessary functional condition to all chickens? Well, they are supposed to lay eggs, though some dont; they run around and make a certain chicken sound, but so do some people in Santa Cruz; they are considered good barbecue material in East Palo Alto, but so are dogs in parts of San Jose. Well, Im not getting very far with the functional attributes of chickens. But Ill give you that one too. Yet, we all know what chickens look like, and nothing but a chicken looks like a chicken. See drawing in your mind. Well, at least you could recognize one when you saw one.

[Yet, I always get them mixed up with ducks] Whats the point? My contention is that there is at least some property which

qualifies a substance being named a chicken, even if no one property can be always agreed upon. Basically, besides this philosophical nonsense, which some have probably gained fame from, there are necessary material, efficient and functional/activity properties for all chickens. And lets move on, Please. I conclude from this that, for man-made artifacts, the primary essential, necessary properties of a class are found in functional characteristics, and in natural things the primary essential, necessary properties are found in the activities, or in how that thing acts, though inanimate things, such as rocks, are characterized essentially by their material composition. Shape also plays an essential role, but for Aristotle the shape is functional and necessary to the things activity.

The principles are known or found by `Nous, which is an intuitive induction. It is a direct insight into the necessary conditions of that substance being known as such, or the necessary premises for that particular demonstration of creation. Aristotles theory of induction is that one perceives many things through continued experience and begins to recognize certain commonalities found in some substances and not in others. At some point one has a direct insight into the invariant conditions or essences, into what is necessary for its existence as such.

This is both an empirical insight and a rational one. One might study animals and find that they can be grouped according to what conditions or properties always exist for certain things. One could also study artifacts, such as tables, and find the invariant properties or functions implicit in all. Yet, one does not study artifacts in the same way as animals, for we would need to question why we made tables in the first place, and this would be the key to the necessary essence of tables. Why we make tables is a rational insight. But of course, we need flat things to place other things on for convenience sake.

For natural things we have empirical insights as to what is essentially common. For artifacts we could do the same, yet this would neglect the one main essential feature of all artifacts, which is that they are essentially made for some purpose. True, we could derive this purpose from empirical study, but it seems absurd to study artifacts in this way, unless we also, and primarily, recognize the rational purpose of their existence which is to serve us in some way. And this purpose is the apriori recognition of what it is, which is what it is meant to be, or meant to perform.

Certainly, what is apriori conceptually must be the most essential of all characteristics! That is, what we must first recognize, before all else, is the essential premise, the essential principle, and the most essential cause. I claim that the most essential of the essentials is the final cause, and the reason for this is that the final cause is not only logically apriori to the other causes, but is also metaphysically apriori to the actual processes of nature and man-made artifacts.

I am claiming that the final cause is a kind of real power affecting things and processes in the world. Whereas the formal cause has no such power to affect things or processes; although it may affect how we see or know things to be, or how we treat things and processes. The formal cause may have a sort of mental or conceptual power, or epistemological power, or be `something (a mental pattern, form or concept?) that stabilizes and intelligibly organizes the world of substances. But the final cause would be the ontological or metaphysical power that Plato intuited as necessary.

It would be that power which attracts movement and processes towards itself. The final form of chicken attracts the egg process, or the chicken-form ontologically exists apriori to the process of becoming chicken and so acts as the pattern aimed at or the pattern which the process is completing.

Now, some people might question my referring to this as a power, but I believe it is significant to say so, because without the final cause there would be no process and no organizing direction for the efficient agencies at work with matter. The final cause gets it all going. It is not just an explanation of where the process happens to go, as in some Darwinian scenario; not just a recognition that all processes have ends, or that certain completions or maturities are inevitable in cyclical natural processes.

The final cause IS the reason for the process itself, which means it is ontologically prior to any significant movement in the process. What would a movement do, where would it go, why would an agency act in the way it does, without first a direction, an aim.

And this is not to imply that the agencies, let alone the matter, has to have all this aim in mind or see where it is going or want to go there. This is not necessary, nor is it correct. But the completion must apriori exist, which is why Plato HAD to posit another realm other than this material one. It must exist (or subsist?) complete in itself, as a pattern to direct or to be followed. [ I do recognize the unscientific-ness of these metaphors, but what can I do, without succumbing to the boredom of scientific modern metaphors? ] The final cause MUST already be complete, for it to be the pattern it is! What is incomplete is the process!

Now, how does this relate to it being a power? What we now commonly call a power is what we call an efficient cause: the power is what DOES the work, or the power is the worker. Thus, there is a power which makes the table, namely man and his tools.

But what about mans mind (or mental comprehension) or his idea (or plan)? Could these be called powers? There is a power which drives the egg-to-chicken process, that is, certain transformations of energy and molecular structure. But what about some guiding, organizing mind or pattern/plan? Modern biology recognizes a genetic code which guides the process, and we do not think of this as a mental phenomena but a physical one. I think there are problems with any such material reductionism, but lets go on and at least recognize that Aristotle did not know of such genes, although such a notion would not necessarily be inconsistent to him. My point, that is, all that I can point out at this time, is that our common notion of `power is a material one and an efficient one of agency. For Aristotle this kind of power is of the efficient cause.

Another kind of power would be the material cause, which is what material the thing or process is make of. The table materially consists of wood, which has certain geometric and sensible properties (meaning that it has definite properties, some of which are available to the senses and some hidden). The chicken materially consists of bones, organs, blood, and flesh, which in turn consists of cells, then molecules, then atoms, but all of which are material, meaning that they are mind-dependent, at least temporarily stable, and have definite properties of the kind stated above.

Thus, the power of material causes is in their mind-dependent geometry, their relative stability, and in the power they have to bump into us (or be bumped in to) and to affect our senses, all of which Galileo, Descartes, and Locke would agree. Some of this explanation borders on the efficient kind of cause, in the way that some philosophers thought materials emitted `effluences or atoms which the senses received. Not to go into these kinds of problems, I shall point out that some of my explained `meaning of matter was not of this sort, but of the sort that explains the power of matter to be in not what it does or throws out but in how it stabilizes itself as `something to be worked with and not just working on, a power of its own with its own conditions of which can only be met on its own terms though not powerful enough to avoid being transformed from outside itself by an efficient cause (which also has a material reality). This, I claim, is how Aristotle considered matter to be; though as a discursive concept about substance it was thought of as the individual stuff of which we formulate ideas about. This can all be tied together, but not all at once!

The final cause is but another kind of power, different from the efficient and material powers. This kind of power is not material.

It is not a relatively stable something to be worked with, nor does it have sensible properties. Yet, it does have properties and it is stable. Platonically speaking, which is here unavoidable, the final cause is a non-material power - I might say mental power, but certainly not to be confused with brain power or my mental powers or with ideas in human minds. It is a metaphysically governing power existing in a mental realm or in a world of potential or world of destiny. To get utterly mystical in this is, I believe, unavoidable, and maybe as unavoidable as you thinking that I just dont get it. The final cause is not a material kind of power. I will say no more about that.

Neither is it an efficient kind of power, because it doesnt actually move things or transform material properties. It acts as a kind of ideal or pattern directing the efficient process. It doesnt do the work, and it doesnt work on in the present scientific sense of that term. Instead, it stands as (or lives as) a stable organizing form. Thus, it could be called the final form, as well as the final end.

The final cause does not bring about change in the same way as an efficient cause. It does not push or exert pressure, it does not cut away or add to other things. It does not change or transform things directly or through any kind of constant conjunction.

Instead, the final causal power is that necessary ideal pattern or functional criteria that serves as the unifying aim of any plan or directed activity. Without it there could be no plan or directed activity. This is a metaphysical law which non-teleological systems do not recognize or try to reduce to their own Newtonian system.

Of course, this end or ideal is a Logical Necessity for any directed activity or process. Recognizing this logical law or first principle of all processes is a supreme inductive insight. But I think it is a mistake to assume that this is Just a logical necessity. I think we need to consider this principle of final cause as a real power working in the world, and not just a principle of logical explanation. And the reason I insist on it being a real power is because it does have a real effect on things and processes and without it these processes could not exist; it is a real power because it is mind-dependent in its function, though obviously it cannot be known or explained without the mind, and also, in a sense, it is a kind of metaphysical mental power.

I think it is a mistake to assume that Aristotle separated logic from metaphysics. He believed the world reflected an inductive and deductive logic, because there could be no other possibility, nor any other explanation for its working success. The world of events and processes must be a demonstration of this logic, a demonstration of first principles or premises. And our human rational logic reflects the natural logical structure of the world. Thus, mind and world, knowledge and fact, are two sides of the same metaphysical reality, that is, All is governed by supreme laws, first principles or causes, with the final cause or the first and final reason being the Supreme Logos.

Ultimately, everything has to have a reason for being, a reason for becoming, an aim to become. And the Supreme Reason above or apriori to all others is conceptualized as the Prime Mover or Unmoved Mover. This is the Ultimate `Arche or Law, the Ultimate Reason for existence and motion. But it is not what moves things, in the sense of pushing on things. It is not the first mover, in the sense of the first domino or the first kinetic action. It is not kinetic action at all. And yet, it does move things, as does any final cause or ideal/end, in the sense of a beautiful woman moving a man, or a dreamed pleasure/happiness moving a mans motivation to work towards it. In this sense the final causes, and the Prime Mover, are attractions or loves, whereby love makes the world go around. In this sense, it moves us, or it moves things to act, through its mysterious (non-Newtonian) force, while being unmoved by anything, and so it remains free, or transcendent, of the changes it instigates.

So, the Unmoved Mover, as the Prime Archetype for all final causes or ideal reasons, is a Transcendental Entity or Intelligence or Ideal Form or Power-which moves all else without moving itself or moving others. To say that it moves things but does not move them is not a contradiction or paradox, because these are different senses of the word `move, one being an efficient sense and the other a teleological sense (or I might venture to say an emotive sense).

We do not need to imply any anthropomorphic sense to this Prime Mover. The Father Image could be used metaphorically, but it is not at all necessary, and there is no reason to believe that this even crossed Aristotles mind. Neither is it appropriate to assume that this Ultimate Mover loves us or creation in any human sense of that word. It may indeed move us to love It, just as any Highest Ideal is loved, revered, and sought out. Being the Supreme Ideal or Reason, It could be thought to contemplate upon its own Reality, which could be thought to be a `Being or `Intelligence or `Power, neither of which seem to make sense without the other.

I have argued, as best as possible for now, that the Ultimate Unmoved Mover, as the Archetype for all final causes, is a Power Supreme, though more of a Feminine Archetypal Power which Lures and Bewitches rather than physically overpowers, pushes, or dominates. The Feminine vs. Masculine archetypal metaphors are interesting and may be significant here, with efficiency and physical overpowering being the Masculine Type, while the Feminine Power draws one to it in a seductive manner, much like the Power of Beauty and of Good implied by Socrates female teacher of myth.

Yet, with the need to move on here, there is no necessity or reason to assume that Aristotle believed the Ultimate to be a Creator or Deity with Will, except maybe in a metaphorical, mythological sense like Zeus.

And yet, I could assume that Aristotle wondered about the Cause of creation, and when, if ever, it began, or if it will ever end, and so it is silly to not believe that he might have wondered if there is a Creator. But of greater significance, would have been the question of whether there is some Ultimate (Divine) Purpose or Reason for existence. Aristotle must have considered the Ultimate Prime Mover to be the Ultimate Reason or Purpose for existence, that is, for things being or coming into completion. It is not necessary that this be in any way anthropomorphic, and for Aristotle no great principle could be if not absolutely necessary, but what seems necessary is that This Ultimate be Intelligent in some way, because it would make no sense that a Reason possibly known to our intelligence would not Itself be Intelligent or mental in some way.

Also, it must be necessary that This be a kind of Power, a Power that gains access to immanency in the world; otherwise It would be inept, or easily forgotten, or without any affect in the universe.

Also, it must be necessary that This be existing in some way, and so we can call it an Entity or Being, though without any necessary attributes other than intelligence and power. We could rightly view this Ultimate purpose in a naturalistic way, without any theological connotations. One could say, and I think Aristotle would agree, that the ultimate purpose of creation, and of all creatures and things involved, is perfect functioning or the perfect demonstration of natural capacities. This is to say that our reason for being, as well as the reason for all things being, natural and artificial, is functional fulfillment, or the perfection of inherent virtues, or being all that one can be, or the whole process working at its best in perfect harmony.

To further understand the Ultimate Reason or Purpose I think we need to look at Man and Aristotelian ethics, since this Ultimate Reason would not make sense if it were only about itself. It must be about a reason or purpose IN creation, not outside it, and within creation man is the highest form since we have the greatest capacities of all creatures. Man, as Aristotle defines, is that kind of animal which has the power of Nous, the power or capacity to Reason, to use deductive logic and to inductively intuit the underlying, necessary principles behind the events of nature and the activities of man. Man is the creature with the capacity to contemplate upon and understand all of creation and the principle laws underlying it. Man has the capacity to understand himself, that is, his own capacities and the principle laws underlying these.

Thus, man is the mind which can reflect upon itself: mind knowing mind and the demonstrations of mind. Man is, then, essentially the Nous, the Awakening, or Reason reflecting upon Itself. This kind of relation between man and Divine Logos, and the approximation of its unity, or man fulfilling his true capacity, is much more easy to accept, I think, than any kind of relational unity between man and God-as-SuperMan in the Christian sense, although one still might need to consider how the Noetic realization of Logos manifests itself (incarnates) into virtue on earth; yet, since this is not really a paper on Mysticism or Symbolic Wisdom, I should move on. Here, we can come to a sense of an individual purpose and destiny, as well as a group, political purpose and destiny. The individual purpose of man would be realization of wisdom/ logos/ principle/ natural law, along with manifestation of the highest virtues, such as contemplation, teaching, and living the Truth. The social or political purpose of mankind would then be all of the above incorporated into, realized by, and the manifested in, the social body and cultural mind of mankind.

Aristotle holds the theory that within living things there is an actualizing power, an impulse to become or mature. This is called `Horme, which was wrongly translated into Latin by the enlightenment rationalists as `conatus which means a conserving force, the force that keeps things being what they naturally are in the face of outside forces. Partly, this is correct, since the `horme impulse is unilaterally directed towards its inherent aim and cannot be changed by other forces, but `horme does not hold things just the way they are - it matures things into what they are not as yet. It is a productive, progressive force, and it is functional within a developmental system. In psychology it might appear as a desire to become, to generate, or to know, and this is always inspired by an end in view.

The `horme is the active efficient power or the agency of change and development. But this needs a pattern as a guide, it needs an aim in view, or an ideal to direct itself toward. Somehow, the chicken-actualizing power within the chicken egg must know what is required to become a chicken, or at least it must have access to the practical knowledge of how to produce chickens. The power must either be intelligent itself or have access to the necessary practical intelligence or be guided by such an intelligence. And further, this practical intelligence must include, apriori, the knowledge of what end the how to is directed.

The final form must exist apriori in the practical knowledge as the guiding pattern, and all of this must exist within, or be accessible to, or be the power over, the `horme agency power at work in the body. There must be a knowledge of chicken pattern within this actualizing power or within the process itself. The final form of chicken, or the knowledge of what chicken is, must transcend the matter it is guiding, that is, be stably independent of the process it is directing, which also implies its apriori status within the process. Certainly the matter cannot be able to guide or change the final form, so only the final form could have this metaphysical power and ontological priority.

As far as I can tell, Aristotle believed such a power to necessarily exist in living things as the cause of its natural change or its process of development. The activity or motion of development could not just be an unintelligent accident of nature.

He also did not accept any theory of an initial impulse setting off a causal chain of reaction, because he believed that a continuous force had to be exerted upon something in order for change to occur.

Now of course everything in nature exerted some degree of active continuous force upon other things, as efficient causes. But life forms could not be the result of only outside forces, because this would then lead to a world of chaos and accident. So, in order to explain the predictability of seeds growing into mature plants or eggs growing into mature animals, we need to postulate such a `horme power within life that exerts a continuous active force toward the aim of maturity.

Aristotle did believe that this power, or internal efficient cause, included the practical intelligence of tree-making or chicken-making, but he could not explain where this intelligence originated from. One would presume, and I think Aristotle did, that the ideal form, or necessary and sufficient properties of tree or chicken, must somehow be immanent within that practical, organizing intelligence of the seed or the egg, and that this ideal form must be stable and free of all change and powers around it, so in this sense it must be an independent monadic power. It must be an efficient power with the final form built within it, or else it is an efficient agency governed by a transcendental ideal form. The former might be considered more Aristotelian and scientific, while the latter more platonic, but given some analysis I think one would find that these two positions are essentially the same, or at least equally possible. However we state it, the final form must maintain an independence from the changes within the systematic process and from outside forces, and the final form must be considered as one of the significant powers, the power which stands (vs. runs) as the aim and direction to which the efficient power moves the body toward.

This claim of mine is then consistent with others.

`Horme is considered the actualizing impulse or the functional force, and the functional intelligence behind the impulse, or guiding the impulse, is the soul (or psyche) within the living thing. The soul is what guides the body development. Without the soul, which is the mental/ intelligent aspect of living plants and animals, there would be no organization of the various physical internal agencies necessary for development. It is not a thing, though, and neither is it substance, but it is considered immanent within the body. In one sense, this is the form guiding the matter, the form of substance guiding the matter of substance. It is not material, but neither does it completely transcend matter. This intelligent form, or soul, is not just embedded in matter, or a part of the body structure, which would be the mechanistic/ materialistic theory of a more modern science. For Aristotle the body (or matter in general) is an insufficient cause of intelligence.

Here is where Aristotles dualism stands out, and it is clear that he metaphysically separates matter and intelligence, body and psyche, though each requires the other for its functional meaning. A body without intelligence could not organize itself into a functional capacity, while an intelligence without a body would have nothing to organize and so its function would be meaningless. This kind of mutual relation is what Aristotle has in mind in the greater cosmic relation between principles and demonstration, between theory and practice, between final forms and material agencies, and ultimately between the Prime Unmoved Mover and creation. It is this functional necessity kind of explanation which, I think, transcends the problems of the transcendental/ immanent debate in both theology and psychology.

For Aristotle nature is the law of processes. Living things exist within their own particular kind of process. There sems to be no discussion of a harmony of processes in Aristotle, whereby processes of specific species function in necessary relation to other processes; but I think there must be some unifying intelligence at work in the ecology of processes, or at least some degree of functional harmony with the various processes.

Trees are part of a specific process involving seeds growing into mature trees, which have their own cycles of fruitfulness juxtaposed by dormancy, with seeds falling to the ground having the capacity to grow into other trees. Chickens develop from chicken eggs which are produced and layed by mature female chickens who have been impregnated by male chickens. Obviously these are cyclical processes, and there is no definite reason for assuming that the aim of a chicken egg is a chicken, anymore than assuming that the aim of a chicken is the production of chicken eggs. The chicken or the egg could be thought of as the final aim. Do we live for our kids or do kids live to be adults? And which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Which is the efficient cause and which is the final cause? I suppose one could view the process either way.

But to simplify these philosophical puzzles, we can juxtapose the aim with the efficient process moving toward it. Aristotle believed that any natural efficient process first needs an aim. Of course, an aim needs an efficient process to actualize itself, but the aim must be apriori to the process. And this is the, or one of the, essential first principle laws of nature and of metaphysics itself.

Nature is a teleological order or process. And this process is usually considered by Aristotle to have the dual aim of preserving the species and actualizing the natural capacity of that demonstration of that species. Efficient powers, or causes, are at work, which is the process to manifest the aim or ideal form/structure. And there is a practical intelligence at work here which knows how things ought to go in order to actualize the final form. This should all work smoothly but does not necessarily do so.

The reason being that other efficient powers or activities, having different aims, can intrude upon the process in question. From the point of view of that process this is a chance event or accident. If a process fails to achieve its natural and regular end, then we can assume this was not a consequence of its own efficient powers but due to external powers/events having interfering directions from those of the natural, regular process.

What we find here in Aristotle is that natural processes have real destinations and real limits within a teleological structure. A series of events is natural when there is: a) an ideal form guiding or organizing the process, or as the object of the process; b) a regularity of certain ends being actualized time and time again; c) efficient causes and material conditions are without interference sufficient to alter the ideal end.

Chance is when some power comes into the process unexpectedly, unnecessarily, and often, retarding the natural process leading toward the ideal aim. These accidental events or causes are at least non-functional and unnecessary; yet often they severely interfere with the ideal process going on. This accident is also unpredicted or is found to be an un-regular event in the usual process. One could even say that accidents are events having less logical necessity than the other more regular events. Of course we must qualify here that some chance events could serve the ideal aim, but still accidentally come into the process. Or an accidental event could serve the aim but not be essentially necessary to it.

For instance, the color of eyes is an accidental event, but some color is necessary to the structure of eyes, though no one color is necessary to the function of sight, unlike other material properties which Are essential to sight.

Each chance event has its own material and efficient-affective conditions. It may be an efficient cause in its own right but not be a necessary cause to that process, or it might even be a detrimental efficient cause. The chance event also has its own end or direction, though the problem being that this is not the end that the process is directed to. This last claim may not be true to Aristotle, though it seems logical, because Aristotle speaks of blind or spontaneous events, which sound like they have no aim at all, let alone the good aim. Also, the posit that chance events are efficient causes themselves, though not efficient to the aim of the process in question, dismisses any claim that these events are of a fifth kind of cause; and yet, if we disclaim them having any aim at all, then they would not be efficient (efficient for what?) but would only be mysteriously spontaneous, and then this would seem to denote a fifth cause.

About necessity in natural processes. First, there is no necessity that an end be always achieved, or that a process be always successful. A teleological end is not a naturally destined necessity. There is no natural absolute necessity for trees or chickens, as ends in themselves, although such ends, like trees, may be necessary causes or factors for the achievement of other ends, such a as moss. And of course, every started process is not necessarily successful.

Second, just because a contiguous sequence of events regularly finalize in a certain way, does not necessarily mean that this end is the final form or final cause of a natural process, and neither does a regularly occurring sequence necessarily mean it is a natural process, since the sequence or the regular completion might be accidental or due to external forces, and thus without teleological order. A natural process requires a final cause organizing an efficient sequence of material causes and events. The final form must be an actual cause and not just the explanation of the usual end of a given process or sequence of events. My line of argument here is, admittedly, not shared by many Aristotle scholars who maintain Aristotles teleology to be merely naturalistic and the final cause to be merely explaining what usually occurs in nature, rather than, as I claim, the final cause to be an apriori necessity to the natural process. As I see it, an end-directed process necessitates a stable end-form to guide or organize the process; not just that all processes or all efficient powers logically have ends.

Thirdly, there is no metaphysical necessity that certain materials be always made into a certain end; but for any process to succeed there is a necessity that certain essential materials be made into a certain end. It is necessary that certain ends have sufficient material conditions and sufficient efficient causes.

Yet, fourthly, no material conditions are sufficient for the end. In other words, material conditions by themselves do not necessitate an ideal end, or necessarily cause that end, for they are insufficient to organize themselves toward that end without the apriori organizing ideal. The end is not just the spontaneous outcome of certain material conditions, that is, an end which just appears to be teleologically apriori because of its regular occurrence.

Instead, in order for material conditions to transform into the ideal end they need the end apriori. Wood does not naturally or necessarily transform into a table without an end first in view, and of course an outside agency is required. Chicken egg material could not, by itself, become a chicken without the apriori ideal pattern to guide it.

The ideal end is not just a natural outcome of certain materials, which is the position of materialists, but they apriori require the end. It is necessary that the ideal end have the power to organize and transform the material conditions; otherwise these would have no particular direction and would be passive to external influences. The materialist would claim that the end is merely the regular, usual outcome of certain material conditions, that the end is `aposteria to the material conditions; but the functionalist would claim that the function or ideal end is first necessary in the transformation of material conditions and is first necessary for the efficient causes to have direction. Since Aristotle distinguishes efficient causes from material causes one must assume that he held a functionalist position and not a materialist position, since the materialist would not make such a distinction.

The functionalist claims that the material conditions and efficient causes necessarily need a teleological end in mind, a final form, an ideal pattern, blueprint, design, archetype --which is not unique to just that thing or process but is a collective, genera essence, or necessary and sufficient criteria for it to become what we now call it. This is, I claim, the kind of functionalist Aristotle was, not the less-realist functionalist who would claim that material conditions are not sufficient explanations for the world, that we need an functional account. This is of course true, but my claim, and I think Aristotle would agree, is that there is an actual teleological order in nature, not just a necessary teleological explanation.







Granger, Herbert. Aristotle And The Functionalist Debate. APEIRON vol. 23, Mar. 1990.

Matthen, Mohan. The Four Causes In Aristoltes Embryology. APEIRON vol. 22, Dec. 1989.

Randall, John H. ARISTOTLE. Columbia U. Press, New York 1960.