Are There Final Causes?

Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 78:161-167 (2004)
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Abstract

Construing all efficient causes as beginning and ceasing with their effects invites the dilemma that a given effect or event either always occurs or neveroccurs. One escapes the dilemma by distinguishing basic and subsidiary efficient causes, according temporal priority of causes to their effects in the case of theformer. In the case of human making and doing, where the two efficient causes belong to the same subject, the two are supplemented by a final cause whichserves to link or to mediate them. This it does by drawing out or actuating the subsidiary cause which exists potentially in the basic cause. Arguing from analogy,can it be argued that, just when basic and subsidiary efficient causes belong to the same non-human subject in nature, they must likewise be supplemented byfinal causes if the potentiality of subsidiary causes in basic causes is to be drawn out and made actual? Surprising though it might seem to some, the answer tothis question is yes. To show this, I first place efficient causes in a dilemma. Next I show how one escapes the dilemma by distinguishing basic and subsidiary efficient causes, making the former temporally precede the latter. These two causes in some cases need to be linked, and this, I argue, requires a cause of another type, a final cause.

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