Aristotle asks "howd that get here?" Term Paper

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As Aristotle viewed the world around him, he observed that things are moving and

changing in certain ways. Aristotle discovered that certain things cause other things,

which in turn cause something else. Aristotle believed that an infinite chain of c

The first evidence that Aristotle viewed was the world around him. He observed that

everything is in motion, and that one motion causes another motion and so on. Much

like billiard balls on a pool table. One ball hits another ball, that ball moves, h s the

heavens. In the heavens, Aristotle observed that everything was in a cyclical motion,

and that the planets moved about each other in circles. If the planets moved about in

circular motion then there must have been a cause to bring about their moti

For Aristotle 'local motion is the primary type of motion and the primary type of motion

is circular motion' For Aristotle this means that everything is moving, and the best form

of movement is movement in a circular motion because a circle is the perf

"If, then, the same thing always exists in a cycle something must always remain

actually operating in the same way, And if there is to be a coming to be and perishing,

then there must be something else that actually operates in one way at one time and

It is necessary, here, to explain what Aristotle called potentiality and actuality.

Potentiality is the faculty something has, and actuality is the realization of that faculty.

One has the ability to be musical, that is, one has the potential to be mu so saying that motion is in the thing moved. For it is actuality of the thing

moved, brought about by the agency of the mover." The last part of Aristotle's

statement, "and hence either because of some or because of the first

The best way to summarize the statement made above by Aristotle is to use the

example of billiard balls. Imagine there are 4 billiard balls labeled A, B, C, and D. Ball

B has the potential to move but needs a reason to move. Ball C moves and caused b

becomes a cyclical motion each causing the other to move and indirectly causes its

own motion.

The last part of Aristotle's statement also mentions a first or prime mover. If one were

to place 4 billiard balls on the table, they would simply sit there and do nothing,

unless something moved them, or there was a prime mover of them. Even if they

would have to act upon it.

This account of cause and effect is at best problematic and troublesome. Aristotle has

based all his knowledge on empirical evidence. Empirical evidence is not always

perfect, and it is always possible to overlook something. Aristotle also did not s

Aristotle based all his evidence for his proof of causation on the empirical world

around him. Human perception is often mistaken, or overlooks things. The human

notion of causation itself is problematic. The only reason we know that C causes B to

mo t there is no other way to know causation, does not prove there is a prime mover. It

may be that causation is infinite as far as our understanding can go. We, as humans,

may be fully incapable of knowing what causation really entails, or how it can be t on

we say that C causes B is because it has happened 9 out of 10 times. The only

reason we know that there is any causation at all is because 9 out of 10 times two

things have been observed together. If causation is nothing more than statistical


The other problem with Aristotle's argument is that one can infer many prime movers,

not simply one of them. Aristotle states "For in every case where the results are the

same, we should assume a finite number ; for a One mover for left to right, one mover

for up and down, and one prime mover for closer and farther away. Based on

empirical evidence, it makes more sense to assume that there are 3 prime movers

instead of one because there are 3 ways of moving.

Aristotle makes a good case for the existence of a first cause, but it is not an infallible

case. There are great problems with our ability to know what we know and how we

know what we know. Our knowledge of causation is never perfect, thus, Aristotle


1. Aristotle in Readings In Ancient Greek Philosophy From Thales to Aristotle edited

by S. Cohen, P. Curd, C.D.C. Reed. Hackett Publishing Company Inc. United States,


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