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Francis Garden - 1878 - Table of contents

Diccionario filosófico
Complete edition

Diccionario de Filosofía
Brief definition of the most important concepts of philosophy.


A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms Francis Garden

Vocabulary of Philosophy, Psychological, Ethical, Metaphysical
William Fleming

Biografías y semblanzas Biographical references and lives of philosophers

Brief introduction to the thought of Ortega y Gasset

History of Philosophy Summaries

Historia de la Filosofía
Explanation of the thought of the great philosophers; summaries, exercises...

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Jaime Balmes

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Zeferino González

Vidas, opiniones y sentencias de los filósofos más ilustres
Complete digital edition of the work of Diogenes Laertius

Compendio de las vidas de los filósofos antiguos

A brief history of Greek Philosophy
B. C. Burt


A Short History of Philosophy





Cause. That without which something else could not exist, which something else is called the effect.


Aristotle, as is well known, divided causes into four kinds: the formal cause,(1) the material,(2) the efficient,(3) and the final.(4) The third, the efficient, is the agency whereby the effect is produced; the second, the material, the matter in which it is produced; the first, the formal, the distinctive characteristics in virtue of which it is what it is; the fourth, the final, the end for which it is called into being.

Thus the efficient cause of the Venus di Medici was the tool guided by the sculptor's hand, the material the marble, the formal being a statue of Venus, and the final to be a representation of Venus, or to be an object in which Venus might be worshipped, or to give delight as an exhibition of the loveliness of which Venus is conceived as the representative. The beginner is apt to be puzzled on hearing all these four ranked as causes. He is apt to think the formal cause identical with the thing itself, and viewing all cause as prior in time to the effect, he cannot see the propriety of such a title as final cause. Yet if he think for a moment, he will see that the final cause, the end to be effected, must have been antecedent in the design to the effect. This classification, however, has not remained a mere difficulty to the beginner. Reid, without gravely objecting to it, considers the term cause to be used in it ambiguously, and therefore denies that the four are species under one genus. To this Hamilton justly replies that the coincidence of the four is a necessary condition, a sine quâ non to the production of the effect.

Bacon, as is well known, pronounced final causes to be like virgins consecrated to God, barren— barren, that is, of practical inventions and operations. In its proper place he treats inquiry into them with no disrespect, but complains only of the injury which it has done to physical research by distracting men from due search after efficient and material causes.

The metaphysical difficulties and controversies of later days respecting causation are connected solely with efficient causes. Into these I do not enter at present. I will content myself with urging on those who do not try to decompose the essential structure of the mind and thereby turn all speculation into futility, and who, abiding in consequence by the elementary forms of thought, believe that there is a real relation between cause and effect, the following considerations.

Every efficient cause which comes within our observation is itself an effect, as its cause in its turn will be found to be. Unless, then, the chain is endless, there must be an ultimate or first cause (for either term is used according to the terminus a quo of thought). Further, the immediate effect with which we are concerned is the result of many causes. Each of these as we ascend is the effect of fewer, so that mounting higher and higher we are compelled to believe that the first cause, the cause of causes, is one.

The efficients which are between the effect and the first cause, are called secondary causes.


(1) τὸ τι ἦν ειναι.

(2) ἥ ὑλη, Metaph. I. 3. τὀ τινὦν ὄντων ἀνάγκη τουτ´ ειναι. Analyt Post. II, 11.

(3) ῾ή τι πρωτον έκινησε.

(4)  τὸ τινος ἔνεκα, Analyt. Post. το ὁῡ ἕνεκα, Metaph.



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