Aristotle on Causality and the Meaning of Life
Aristotle’s 4 causes cannot explain the supernatural but it can prompts us to go further.
A thought that came to mind while deciding on the topic to write this essay is to use Aristotle’s causality method to substantiate the existence of a Unmoved Mover or Creator (efficient cause) of the universe. Having read a bit of St Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae on his argument for the existence of God, I hope to understand his writing better by attempting the same. The argument is going to be built based on an example of a tangible object and the other on an intangible object. The first tangible object in this discussion is man and the second intangible object is love. Love in this argument is defined as “To love is to will the good of the other” CCC1766. Hopefully the meaning of this essay generates emotions and compel the reader to contemplatively reflect on this argument.
Let’s begin by stating that man was made to love and hopefully love the Good since the wrong kinds of love will lead man down the wrong path. This is the final cause for man, but love must be free for love to have meaning. Man, or homo sapiens has a soul embodied in corporeal substance living in a physically constructed world, that has both tangible and intangible realms. The distinction between man and the rest of the animal kingdom is our ability to reason or answer the why question or to ask the why question. This ability can be thought of as arising out of our free will to probe about purpose and the reasoning for the purpose. I would postulate that we can’t ask why in a meaningful way if we don’t have free will, since asking the why question requires us to step outside of the reasoning loop to introspect back into the reasons in relation to the hypothesis. If we entertain the Stoic’s notion of pre-determination, although without profound defence now, we can kind of intuitively say that it will not be possible. Homo sapiens quite clearly has the free will to act based on reasons and this attribute makes us different from a formal cause standpoint from the rest of the animal kingdom. On the flip side, we can also act irrationally and then reversibly justify our actions in a seemingly logical and convincing manner.