Philosophy – Aristotle

Hello! This is part two of my Philosophy section – I hope you enjoy and remember to leave a comment!


  • Potentiality: when something contains the ingredients to become something else.
  • Actuality: when an object fulfils its potential and becomes something else.

Plato and Aristotle

  • Plato taught Aristotle at the Academy. Aristotle had great affection and respect for his teacher, but he disagreed with him.
  • ‘The School of Athens’ by Raphael shows Plato pointing upwards, whilst Aristotle’s hand is held parallel to the ground. Plato’s feet appear to be about to move, whereas Aristotle’s feet are firmly on the ground and completely still.
  • Aristotle was an empiricist, who argued that knowledge is based on experience and the truth can be discovered through our senses. He was trying to understand the purpose of life and was interested in the movement between potentiality and actuality. One area he examined involved trying to discover exactly what the essence of an object was.

The Four Causes

Cause Description
Material Cause What is it made of?
Efficient Cause How was it made/created?
Formal Cause What does it look like/ the characteristics?
Final Cause What was it for/the purpose?

The Final Cause

  • Aristotle said the Final Cause is the most important one because it gives the best explanation of an object. The purpose of an object is an important part of what it is.
  • Everything in existence can answer the four causes, even if we do not know the answers ourselves. Hence, everything has a purpose, even if we do not understand it.
  • If a small object can answer all the questions, so can something as large as the universe.
  • When the purpose is fully realised, then full perfection is reached. If the object does what it is meant to do, then the object has achieved goodness.

Prime Mover

  • Everything in life is changing, and something must cause this movement. Everything must have a Final Cause, in other words, a purpose for being here. Nothing comes from nothing. So it follows that when there is a chain of events, there must be an ultimate (first) cause. The Prime Mover is the ultimate cause.
  • The Prime Mover is an unmoved mover, who is eternal, a substance and actual. It is different, separate and external from the world. The Prime Mover is beyond space and time. There are some similarities between the Prime Mover and God.
  • It does not exist in a bodily form like us, otherwise, it would be subject to change just as we are. The Prime Mover can only exist in a spiritual way, so it must be intelligence or thought. It is immaterial, so can only understand intellectual and spiritual activities.
  • It never changes, does not have any potential to change and so will never end. Something which is eternal must necessarily be good; things which change are bad. Change means impermanence, which is bad because there is always room for improvement.
  • The Prime Mover cannot move, but things are attracted to it. We humans move towards the Prime Mover, like cats drawn to a bowl of milk (Gerry Hughe).
  • The Prime Mover is perfect and unmoved, and so cannot think about anything but itself, because thinking involves moving through ideas. The PM can only know the PM and cannot have a relationship with anything outside of itself. It is totally outside of our world in terms of time and space. It knows nothing about it, has no plan for it and never intervenes in it.
  • It cannot have any direct interactions with humans or the universe because it will change it to have new experiences.
  • It is transcendent – beyond our understanding.
  • The PM is the start of the chain, and it came simply from nothing. It controls everything and is made of pure substance.
  • 100% perfect because it is all perfect and good, eternal and immaterial.
  • It has no divine plan.
Strengths Weaknesses
Aristotle focuses on empiricism and sensory experience, which is accessible to everybody. It is hard to understand how the Prime Mover can be powerful, yet be unable to know it. He does not know about our universe or the people who are drawn towards him.
He believes that everything has a purpose, giving worth to people and objects. Where did the matter that the world is made of come from? Was it caused too?
  Does there have to be a reason for the existence of the universe? Couldn’t it be chance?
  We will never be able to fill all at the questions – Aristotle himself said that he had a lot of trouble with the Final Cause of the universe.

Finished! Yay! Again, these are my real notes which are highlighted the way I like them to be, but the tables are usually one of the blue, white, blue, white ones from Word… if that makes any sense. But yeah, I hope you enjoyed it and learnt something, people comment below anything I missed or any discussion points, I love feedback!

Image result for funny aristotle


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