The Formal Cause in the Posterior Analytics

  • Petter Sandstad
Keywords: Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, formal cause, demonstrations, procedures for identifying causes


I argue that Aristotle’s account of scientific demonstrations in the Posterior Analytics is centred upon formal causation, understood as a demonstration in terms of essence (and as innocent of the distinction between form and matter). While Aristotle says that all four causes can be signified by the middle term in a demonstrative syllogism, and he discusses at some length efficient causation, much of Aristotle’s discussion is foremost concerned with the formal cause. Further, I show that Aristotle had very detailed procedures for identifying the formal cause, and that he is aware of several problems which might lead one to erroneously identify the wrong form as the cause of a property. Finally, I show that Aristotle’s account can easily be adapted to material causation, and through some modifications (introduction of process universals related through parthood), hinted at in II 11-12 and 16-17, to efficient and final causation.


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How to Cite
Sandstad P. The Formal Cause in the Posterior Analytics. FV [Internet]. 2017Jan.18 [cited 2022Jan.19];37(3). Available from: