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Department Colloquium: Emily Kress

Friday, April 9, 2021 - 3:00pm

Abstract: Aristotle understands the generation of an animal as an actualization of two sorts of capacities: the active capacities provided by the father, functioning as the efficient cause and the source of the form, and the passive capacities provided by the mother, who supplies the matter on which the efficient cause acts. Eventually, an animal comes to be, equipped with features—wings, a beak, a heart—that play a role in its life. The process is teleological: its efficient cause—initially in the father and later in the organism—acts for the sake of something. My focus is a debate about how much this efficient cause is responsible for and how. I offer a new argument in favour of Leunissen’s suggestion that animal generation involves two sorts of teleological causation: one “driven by” form and the other by matter. Drawing on Meteor. 4.2, I offer a new account of this distinction: it is a difference in the extent to which the matter functions as a determinant of the end achieved. This is a consequence of a further difference in the generality of the end at which the efficient cause aims. I thus have a second, broader aim: to show how examining Meteor. 4.2 not only deepens our understanding of teleological explanations in Aristotle’s biology, but does so by revealing important features of the capacities that get exercised in causal processes.

Paper Title

Concocting Primary and Secondary Teleology: Teleological Causation in Aristotle’s Meteorology 4