Aristotle on Plato's Forms as Causes

In Mark J. Nyvlt (ed.), The Odyssey of Eidos: Reflections on Aristotle's Response to Plato. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock. pp. 19-39 (2023)
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Much of the debate about Aristotle’s criticisms of Plato has focused on the separability of the Forms. Here the dispute has to do with the ontological status of the Forms, in particular Plato’s claim for their ontological priority in relation to perceptible objects. Aristotle, however, also disputes the explanatory and causal roles that Plato claims for the Forms. This second criticism is independent of the first; even if the problem of the ontological status of the Forms were resolved to Aristotle’s satisfaction, this second criticism would still stand. The problem here is not that there is no room for Aristotle’s four causes in Plato’s ontology; on the contrary, antecedents for all four can be found in Plato’s works. The problem, instead, is that Plato’s Forms fail to meet the general requirements that Aristotle sets out for the material, efficient, formal, and final causes of perceptible objects. Hence, even if the Forms were immanent in perceptible objects, they would still explain nothing about them.

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Christopher Byrne
St. Francis Xavier University


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