Aristotle METAPHYSICA Book 8 Part 4

Cause and substance

1. Regarding material substance we must not forget that even if all things come from the same first cause or have the same things for their first causes, and if the same matter serves as starting-point for their generation, yet there is a matter proper to each, e.g. for phlegm the sweet or the fat, and for bile the bitter, or something else; though perhaps these come from the same original matter. And there come to be several matters for the same thing, when the one matter is matter for the other; e.g. phlegm comes from the fat and from the sweet, if the fat comes from the sweet; and it comes from bile by analysis of the bile into its ultimate matter. For one thing comes from another in two senses, either because it will be found at a later stage, or because it is produced if the other is analysed into its original constituents. When the matter is one, different things may be produced owing to difference in the moving cause; e.g. from wood may be made both a chest and a bed. But some different things must have their matter different; e.g. a saw could not be made of wood, nor is this in the power of the moving cause; for it could not make a saw of wool or of wood. But if, as a matter of fact, the same thing can be made of different material, clearly the art, i.e. the moving principle, is the same; for if both the matter and the moving cause were different, the product would be so too.

2. When one inquires into the cause of something, one should, since 'causes' are spoken of in several senses, state all the possible causes. what is the material cause of man? Shall we say 'the menstrual fluid'? What is moving cause? Shall we say 'the seed'? The formal cause? His essence. The final cause? His end. But perhaps the latter two are the same. - It is the proximate causes we must state. What is the material cause? We must name not fire or earth, but the matter peculiar to the thing.

3. Regarding the substances that are natural and generable, if the causes are really these and of this number and we have to learn the causes, we must inquire thus, if we are to inquire rightly. But in the case of natural but eternal substances another account must be given. For perhaps some have no matter, or not matter of this sort but only such as can be moved in respect of place. Nor does matter belong to those things which exist by nature but are not substances; their substratum is the substance. E.g what is the cause of eclipse? What is its matter? There is none; the moon is that which suffers eclipse. What is the moving cause which extinguished the light? The earth. The final cause perhaps does not exist. The formal principle is the definitory formula, but this is obscure if it does not include the cause. E.g. what is eclipse? Deprivation of light. But if we add 'by the earth's coming in between', this is the formula which includes the cause. In the case of sleep it is not clear what it is that proximately has this affection. Shall we say that it is the animal? Yes, but the animal in virtue of what, i.e. what is the proximate subject? The heart or some other part. Next, by what is it produced? Next, what is the affection - that of the proximate subject, not of the whole animal? Shall we say that it is immobility of such and such a kind? Yes, but to what process in the proximate subject is this due?

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