Making Room for Matter: Material Causes in the Phaedo and the Physics

Apeiron 47 (2):245–265 (2014)

Authors
David Ebrey
Humboldt-University, Berlin
Abstract
It is often claimed that Socrates rejects material causes in the Phaedo because they are not rational or not teleological. In this paper I argue for a new account: Socrates ultimately rejects material causes because he is committed to each change having a single cause. Because each change has a single cause, this cause must, on its own, provide an adequate explanation for the change. Material causes cannot provide an adequate explanation on their own and so Socrates rejects them. Aristotle agrees that material causes cannot explain changes on their own, but by allowing the same change to have multiple causes, he makes room for a material cause. Aristotle draws attention to the anti-Platonic implications of his four causes in a passage in Physics II.3 (195a3- 14) that has been overlooked by commentators.
Keywords Matter  Explanation  Cause  Plato's Phaedo  Aristotle's Physics
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DOI 10.1515/apeiron-2013-0012
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