Aristotelian discussions about science had only been qualitative, not quantitative. By the modern definition of the term, Aristotelian philosophy was not science, as this worldview did not attempt to probe how the world actually worked through experiment. For example, in his book "The history of animals" he claimed that human males have more teeth than female. Had he only made some observations, he would have found out that this claim is false.
Rather, based on what one's senses told one, Aristotelian philosophy then depended upon the assumption that man's mind could elucidate all the laws of the universe, based on simple observation (without experimentation) through reason alone.
One of the reasons for this was that Aristotle held that physics was about changing objects with a reality of their own, whereas mathematics was about unchanging objects without a reality of their own. In this philosophy, he could not imagine that there was a relationship between them.
In contrast, today the term science refers to the position that thinking alone often leads people astray, and therefore one must compare one's ideas to the actual world through experimentation; only then can one see if one's ideas are based in reality.
Aristotle's Four Causes:
Aristotle names four "causes" of things, but the word cause (Greek: a?t?a, aitia) is not used in the modern sense of "cause and effect", under which causes are events or states of affairs. Rather, the four causes are like different ways of explaining something:
- The material cause
This is the material that makes up an object, for example, "the bronze and silver ... are causes of the statue and the bowl."
- The formal cause
This is the blueprint or the idea commonly held of what an object should be. Aristotle says, "The form is the account (and the genera of the account) of the essence (for instance, the cause of an octave is the ratio two to one, and in general number), and the parts that are in the account."
- The efficient cause
This is the person who makes an object, or the unmoved mover (God) who moves nature. For example, "a father is a cause of his child; and in general the producer is a cause of the product and the initiator of the change is a cause." This is closest to the modern definition of "cause".
- The final cause
The final cause or telos is the purpose or end that something is supposed to serve. This includes "all the intermediate steps that are for the end ... for example, slimming, purging, drugs, or instruments are for health; all of these are for the end, though they differ in that some are activities while others are instruments."
An example of an artifact that has all four causes would be a table, which has material causes (wood and nails), a formal cause (the blueprint, or a generally agreed idea of what tables are), an efficient cause (the carpenter), and a final cause (using it to dine on).
Aristotle argues that natural objects such as an "individual man" have all four causes. The material cause of an individual man would be the flesh and bone that make up an individual man. The formal cause would be the blueprint of man, that which is used as a guide to create an individual man and to keep him in a certain state called man. The efficient cause of an individual man would be the father of that man, or in the case of all men the “unmoved mover” God who breathed (anima-breath) into the soul (anima-Latin translation) of man. The final cause of man would be as Aristotle stated, “Now we take the human’s function to be a certain kind of life, and take this life to be the soul’s activity and actions that express reason. Hence the excellent man’s function is to do this finely and well. Each function is completed well when its completion expresses the proper virtue. Therefore the human good turns out to be the souls’ activity that expresses virtue.”