[hist-analytic] I Don't Know Why (I Just Do)

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Sat May 30 10:17:32 EDT 2009

While I provided the general link to the  relevant passage in Aristotle's
Metaphysics 983a, I am pleased to provide now  the specific link

Book 1, Part 3 -- Paragraph  1



Evidently we have to acquire knowledge of the original causes (for we  say
we know each thing only when we think we recognize its first cause), and
causes are spoken of in four senses. In one of these we mean the substance,
i.e.  the essence (for the 'why' is reducible finally to the definition, and
the  ultimate 'why' is a cause and principle); in another the matter or
substratum,  in a third the source of the change, and in a fourth the cause
opposed to this,  the purpose and the good (for this is the end of all generation
and change). We  have studied these causes sufficiently in our work on

Along with  a variant English translation at



It  is clear that we must obtain knowledge of the primary causes, because
it is when  we think that we understand its primary cause that we claim to
know each  particular thing. Now there are four recognized kinds of cause. Of
these we hold  that one is the essence or essential nature of the thing
(since the "reason why"  of a thing is ultimately reducible to its formula, and
the ultimate "reason why"  is a cause and principle); another is the matter
or substrate; the third is the  source of motion; and the fourth is the
cause which is opposite to this, namely  the purpose or "good";for this is the
end of every generative or motive process.  We have investigated these
sufficiently in the Physics4  ;



epei  de phaneron hoti tôn ex archês aitiôn dei labein [25] epistêmên tote
gar eidenai  phamen hekaston, hotan tên prôtên aitian oiômetha gnôrizein, ta
d' aitia legetai  tetrachôs, hôn mian men aitian phamen einai tên ousian
kai to ti ên einai  anagetai gar to dia ti eis ton logon eschaton, aition de
kai archê to dia ti  prôton, heteran de tên hulên [30] kai to hupokeimenon,
tritên de hothen hê archê  tês kinêseôs, tetartên de tên antikeimenên aitian
tautêi, to hou heneka kai  tagathon telos gar geneseôs kai kinêseôs pasês
tout' estin, tetheôrêtai men oun  hikanôs peri autôn hêmin en tois peri

What fascinates me is the  Greek, 'to dia ti' -- the 'why'.

I find there's a way to identify a  philosopher: the OED has it very well
when it  goes:

She could supply the ready ‘because’
to many of the old philosopher's  ‘whys’.

Steinmetz, Weahtercasts (1866).

It may also pay to consider  'causation' as a "relation" in Aristotle (i.e.
one of the categories). Kant  indeed has 'hypotheticals' as falling under
'relation' -- And cfr. B. Aune's  symbolism


--- To  the objection that hypotheticals are _not_ causatives, one may
advice, alla  Stanford Encyclopedia does in the brilliant "Metaphysics of
Causation" that one  cannot really understand 'cause' without a serious analysis
of  counterfactuals!


JL Speranza

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