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• Aristotle examined the world around him, using his senses. This means
he was an Empiricist.
• This means his argument is a’ posteriori’
• Note: The terms a priori ("from the earlier") and a posteriori ("from the later")
• A priori knowledge is independent of experience (senses)
• A posteriori knowledge is dependent on experience or empirical evidence
• Telos is the word used to describe
something that achieves its final
• Everything needs to change in
order for it to reach its final end,
• The ‘form’ makes the thing have
particular qualities/ essence.
• Form makes it what it is (think of
the formal cause).
Potentiality - Actuality
• Change is natural/ good part of the form of
• Potentiality is the quality something possesses
– something it can do if the conditions are
• If the conditions are right then the potentiality
becomes actuality when it achieves its
• This state of actuality then has the potential to
change - continuous cycle of change and
• If something can change, it exists in one
‘actual’ state and has the ‘potential’ to
become another state.
E.G An embryo is
potentially a baby.
An actual baby is
potentially a child.
What would come
Four Causes found in ‘Metaphysics’
Aristotle went on further:
• Everything in the world is changing (state of flux/
Greek word ‘motus’ = motion).
• To go from cause (material, formal and efficient) to an
effect (Final/ telos/ purpose achieved) it must
= Reach its telos from potentiality to actuality, it needs
to go through four causes.
What is it made of?
E.G Book - paper
(‘form’ - essence)
The form or essence of something
What are its characteristics?
How does it happen?
E.G Publishers, writer, author
What is it for?
E.G to read, pleasure and enjoyment, education
The sculptor is working on a large block of granite. He
hacks away at it and a young boy asks,
“ What are you looking for?”
“Wait and see.”
Later in the day the little boy returns and sees the
sculptor has carved a beautiful horse out of the
granite. The amazed boy asks the sculptor,
“How did you know it was in there?”
In a sense, the sculptor had seen the horse's form in
the block of granite, because that particular block
of granite had the potentiality to be formed into
the shape of a horse.
Prime Mover’s Qualities
1. Prime Mover does not move or have any desire or knowledge to move/ change.
2. Prime Mover only thinks about itself and is only aware of itself ( cannot be changed by
anything else, including us.)
3. By attracting things towards it by sheer will/ consciousness. Everything in the universe
is attracted to the Prime Mover (cat/milk, moth/light)
4. Transcendent: is separate or external from the universe/ change/ motion
5. Necessary: cannot fail to exist
6. Unchanged: not changed remains in a pure state of ‘actuality’ with no potential
7. Perfect: Prime Mover has no potential (potential means need to change/ improve) but
is pure actuality.
8. Impersonal: does not know (gain knowledge) or interact with the universe as this would
result in change.
9. Final Cause (no material, formal or efficient causes): the reason why the universe is the
way it is – constant motion from actual to potential
10. For Aristotle God is the Prime Mover.
Note: Aristotle is not comparing the First mover to starting off a set of dominoes. Instead he
is focusing on the Prime Mover as the originating cause of all motion that sustains the
pattern of change from actuality to potentiality.
As “nothing comes from nothing,” there must be an ultimate
1. Aristotle’s theory is based on logic, gained through using
senses = more acceptable as it is based around concepts
that everyone can discover.
2. Supported by fellow empiricists such as Hume who used his
senses to find meaning and truth.
3. Prime Mover can be compared to the Christian God. This
means that even though God cannot be proven, millions of
Christians still believe in the idea, so makes Aristotle’s Prime
Mover a more conceivable basis for an argument even
though there is no proof. (However Christians may not agree
with this idea of ‘God’ because…)
1. Senses are different from person to person. This means that the information they
give us is subjective.
2. Rationalists like Descartes/Plato take a sceptical approach to the reliability of the
senses and argue for an ‘a priori’ approach to knowledge.
3. Aristotle says the ‘nothing comes from nothing’ but then where did the Prime
Mover come from? And the matter that made the world?
4. Aristotle basis his theory on idea that everything has a purpose. But is this exactly
true? What about an ostriches’ wings/ Dairy Goat's wattle?
5. Darwin’s theory of natural selection/evolution = survival of fittest rather than that
species having a purpose or not in the case of extinction.
6. Does the universe have to have a purpose at all? Many people believe that there
is no purpose to the universe and things happen by chance.
Bertrand Russell, for example, has argued that
“The universe is just there, and that`s all.”
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