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Aristotle - The Organon ANALYTICA POSTERIORA Book 2 Part 16

Whether, when the effect is present the cause also is present

1. The question might be raised with regard to cause and effect whether when the effect is present the cause also is present; whether, for instance, if a plant sheds its leaves or the moon is eclipsed, there is present also the cause of the eclipse or of the fall of the leaves - the possession of broad leaves, let us say, in the latter case, in the former the earth's interposition. For, one might argue, if this cause is not present, these phenomena will have some other cause: if it is present, its effect will be at once implied by it - the eclipse by the earth's interposition, the fall of the leaves by the possession of broad leaves; but if so, they will be logically coincident and each capable of proof through the other. Let me illustrate: Let A be deciduous character, B the possession of broad leaves, C vine. Now if A inheres in B (for every broad-leaved plant is deciduous), and B in C (every vine possessing broad leaves); then A inheres in C (every vine is deciduous), and the middle term B is the cause. But we can also demonstrate that the vine has broad leaves because it is deciduous. Thus, let D be broad-leaved, E deciduous, F vine. Then E inheres in F (since every vine is deciduous), and D in E (for every deciduous plant has broad leaves): therefore every vine has broad leaves, and the cause is its deciduous character. If, however, they cannot each be the cause of the other (for cause is prior to effect, and the earth's interposition is the cause of the moon's eclipse and not the eclipse of the interposition) - if, then, demonstration through the cause is of the reasoned fact and demonstration not through the cause is of the bare fact, one who knows it through the eclipse knows the fact of the earth's interposition but not the reasoned fact. Moreover, that the eclipse is not the cause of the interposition, but the interposition of the eclipse, is obvious because the interposition is an element in the definition of eclipse, which shows that the eclipse is known through the interposition and not vice versa.

2. On the other hand, can a single effect have more than one cause? One might argue as follows: if the same attribute is predicable of more than one thing as its primary subject, let B be a primary subject in which A inheres, and C another primary subject of A, and D and E primary subjects of B and C respectively. A will then inhere in D and E, and B will be the cause of A's inherence in D, C of A's inherence in E. The presence of the cause thus necessitates that of the effect, but the presence of the effect necessitates the presence not of all that may cause it but only of a cause which yet need not be the whole cause. We may, however, suggest that if the connexion to be proved is always universal and commensurate, not only will the cause be a whole but also the effect will be universal and commensurate. For instance, deciduous character will belong exclusively to a subject which is a whole, and, if this whole has species, universally and commensurately to those species - i.e. either to all species of plant or to a single species. So in these universal and commensurate connexions the 'middle' and its effect must reciprocate, i.e. be convertible. Supposing, for example, that the reason why trees are deciduous is the coagulation of sap, then if a tree is deciduous, coagulation must be present, and if coagulation is present - not in any subject but in a tree - then that tree must be deciduous.


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