Aristotle's Theory of Four Causes or Causality

Aristotle’s theory of causality or four causes occupies an important place in his discussion of metaphysics. According to him there are four causes in the process of change. As we see things around us, says Aristotle,  we find that they are constantly changing and a real fact of our experience is that everything changes. For Aristotle change means widely.According to him change means motion, growth, decay, generation, and corruption. Some of these changes are natural and others are the products of human action and arts. Things as we see always take a new form. A new life is born a new thing is made. 

First, we can ask , what is it ? Secondly, what is it made of? Thirdly, by what is it made? and fourthly, for what purpose/end is it made?

The four answers of these four questions represent Aristotle’s four causes. The four causes represent a broad pattern for total explanation of anything and everything. Let us take an object of art. The four causes might be  (1) a statue (2)of marble (3)by a sculptor (4)for the purpose of a decoration. So, Aristotle says that everything has an explanation; seeds sprout, roots go down and not up, plants grow and in this process of change move toward their end.

Aristotle’s four causes are therefore (1)the formal cause, which determines what a thing is, (2)the material cause, or what the thing is made of ,(3)the efficient cause ,by what a thing is made, and (4)the final cause, that the ‘end’ for which it is made.

On the strength of four causes, Aristotle thinks that nature is life. All things are in motion, in the process of becoming and dying away. The process of reproduction is, according to him, a clear example of the power which is in all living things that initiate change.