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Philosophical Issues Surrounding Aristotles Final Cause Essay

What philosophical issues arise around aristotles final cause when applied to human beings? The final cause according to Aristotle is the purpose for an object, for example, the final purpose of a chair would be to sit. This is a straightforward principle when applied to man made objects, because they all have an obvious creator and that creator makes them for a purpose.

Aristotle also said that the final cause could be applied to natural things, like trees, animals and humans. This is where many people believe Aristotle made a fundamental mistake. How can you define the purpose of an animal or a tree? This causes a problem when you try to apply the final cause to human beings. The final cause would then imply that we have a specific purpose, an ultimate goal so to speak. The final cause is not so straightforward in a natural sense, it has no definitive purpose, no plan or goal.

The final cause of a natural thing is whatever comes at the end of a natural process, for example the final cause of reproduction of two dogs is a puppy, the final cause of that puppy would then to develop into a dog. The same theory can be applied to humans. This then suggests that we do not have a purpose or plan in life but that our purpose is to simply ‘exist’. From this we could suppose that the final cause of natural things is its form, this though in the case of natural things is not the same as shape, the form can be related to its function. For this we need to break the final cause down.

For example we can look at the individual final causes of the components in our body i.e the final cause of our lungs is breath. Collectively then the final causes or function of our organs is our survival. Aristotle then says that our final cause is to do typically as any species does, to survive and to flourish. The Philosophical issues that arise out of this can be used to question the existence of god, for example as a sculptor sculpts in order to observe and enjoy his creation as an object of beauty, so too could it be said that god is our ‘sculptor’ and that nature is an object of beauty. Another philosophical argument that could arise from this is the argument that as our final cause is simply survival then our existence has no purpose or higher goals.


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