|Abstract||In the Principles, Descartes declares that of the four Aristotelian causes, he will retain only one: the efficient. Though some natural philosophers argued on behalf of the final cause, and others held that form could be rehabilitated, the efficient cause was in fact the only one of the four to flourish in the new philosophy. Descartes’ claim would lead one to believe that he preserved the efficient cause—that here, at least, we find continuity. But it is reasonable to wonder whether, when from a fourfold classification three members are removed, the fourth can remain unaltered. The theory of the efficient cause in late Aristotelianism is a kind of bundle. Among its components are a group of what I will call “formal characters”. These are features of efficient causation that are, or so I will argue, relatively independent both of what is said to be the essence of the efficient cause and of the hylomorphic principles of Aristotelian natural philosophy.|
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