Result of Your Query

A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Z

formal causeFormursache (ger.)

  • The structure, configuration or organization of a thing that produces an effect or gives rise to an action.
    c. -340 (BC)

    [ἀναγκαῖον ἄρα τὴν ψυχὴν οὐσίαν εἶναι ὡς εἶδος σώματος φυσικοῦ δυνάμει ζωὴν ἔχοντος. [So the soul must be substance in the sense of being the form of a natural body, which potentially has life.] [Notwendig also muß die Seele ein Wesen als Form(ursache) eines natürlichen Körpers sein, der in Möglichkeit Leben hat.]

    Aristotle (c. 340 BC). De anima II.1, 412a19-21; cf. 414a12f. (transl. W.S. Hett; Germ. transl. W. Theiler, H. Seidl]]

    64-5 AD

    Tertia [causa] est forma, quae unicuique operi inponitur tamquam statuae.

    Seneca (64-65 AD). Epistulae morales ad Lucilium 65, 4.


    [Aristoteles] dicit, quod anima est principium et causa viventis corporis. Et cum principium et causa dicatur multipliciter, anima dicitur tribus modis principium et causa viventis corporis. Uno modo, sicut unde est principium motus. Alio modo, sicut cuius causa, idest finis. Tertio, sicut substantia, id est forma corporum animatorum. Secundo ibi “quod igitur” probat quod supposuerat. Et primo, quod anima sit causa viventis corporis, ut forma: et hoc duplici ratione: quarum prima talis est. Illud est causa alicuius ut substantia, idest, ut forma, quod est causa essendi. Nam per formam unumquodque est actu. Sed anima viventibus est causa essendi; per animam enim vivunt, et ipsum vivere est esse eorum: ergo anima est causa viventis corporis, ut forma. [Aristoteles] betont, daß die Seele Ursprung und Ursache des lebenden Körpers ist. Da Ursprung und Ursache in mehrfacher Bedeutung gebraucht werden, so ist die Seele in dreifacher Bedeutung Ursprung und Ursache des lebenden Körpers: 1. als Wirkursache, 2. als Zweckursache, 3. als Wesensursache, d.h. Formursache der beseelten Körper. Zweitens beweist er an der Stelle »Daß sie usw.« das, was er vorausgesetzt hatte, und zwar zunächst, daß die Seele Formursache des lebenden Körpers is in zweifacher Begründung: 1. Das ist Wesens- und Formursache eines Dinges, was Ursache des Seins ist. Durch seine Form hat jedes Ding sein Wirklichsein. Die Seele aber ist Ursache des Seins der Lebewesen. Denn infolge der Seele leben sie und Leben ist Sein. Also ist die Seele Formursache des lebenden Körpers.

    Thomas Aquinas (1268). In Aristotelis libros De anima II et III: II, 7 (318-9) [Germ. transl. Alois Mager, 1937]. 


    the relation of supervenience is not a case of efficient causation. The type of cause making the higher level exist is a special arrangement of the units of the lower type and thus the lower level could be said, Aristotelianly speaking, to be the material cause of the higher one. […] cause and effect […] are parts of one and the same process, and the scientific idea of cause is rather to be interpreted as the regularity of this process. Again Aristotelianly speaking, this regularity should rather be interpreted as the “formal cause” of the process.

    Emmeche, C., Køppe, S. & Stjernfelt, F. (1997). Explaining emergence: towards an ontology of levels. Journal for General Philosophy of Science 28, 83-119: 94.


    certain sets of material aggregates, under particular conditions, get self—restructured, that is, they over-determine themselves according to a circular causal relation. Such causal actions become manifest in the creation of new forms of cohesion and, thus, in the appearance of new forms of organization. This type of causal action is formal in the sense that it infuses forms, that is, it materially restructures matter according to a form. It acts materially, in the sense that formal causation requires complex and specific aggregates of matter and specific and controlled flows of energy. Furthermore, this restructuring of matter (which in its most basic expression is a given pattern) brings forth and stabilizes a possible—but improbable–material organization.

    Moreno, A. (2000). Closure, identity and the emergence of formal causation. In: Chandler, J.L.R. & Vijver, G. van de (eds.). Closure. Emergent Organizations and Their Dynamics. The New York Academy of Sciences, 112-121: 113.


    Formal causality corresponds to the form or pattern into which the component parts of a given entity or process are arranged. It is depicted by concepts as “the structure of”, “organizes”, “the pattern of”, “the configuration of”, etc. […] a constraint on the molecules’ relations results from their being part of the spacetime form, or pattern, of cellular structures and processes (formal causality).

    El-Hani, C.N. & Emmeche, C. (2000). On some theoretical grounds for an organism-centered biology: property emergence, supervenience, and downward causation. Theor. Biosci. 119, 234-275: 261-2. 


    As higher level entities (e.g., a cell) supervene on lower order entities (molecules), formal causality on the higher level supervenes on the efficient causality of the lower level. This can be interpreted as the selection—from a very large set of possible (efficient) interactions—of a small set of realizable (efficient) interactions on the lower level, on which the higher level then (formally) supervenes.

    Emmeche, C., Køppe, S. & Stjernfelt, F. (2000). Levels, emergence, and three versions of downward causation. In: Andersen, P.B. et al. (eds.). Downward Causation. Minds, Bodies and Matter, 13-34: 31-2.


    formal causation is a quite different kind of causality than physical causality. Physical (or ‘material’) causality lies on the intrinsic activity of matter, whose processes occur in intrinsic time and energy, and do not require underlying levels of organization. On the contrary, formal causality needs underlying levels of material organization (enormous amount of systems and time) and consists in explicit re-arrangement of matter. […] we can say, in Aristotelian terms, that DNA molecules are the formal cause of proteins in biological cells, because their specific sequence of nucleotides convey the ‘idea’ or ‘form’ of the latter.

    Moreno, A. & Umerez, J. (2000). Downward causation as the core of living organization. In: Andersen, P.B. et al. (eds.). Downward Causation. Minds, Bodies and Matter, 99-117: 108-9.


    the formal cause was meant to explain the stability of the world in terms of the structure of things, whereas natural laws explain the stability of the world in terms of the dynamic relations between events. Thus the concept of natural law and the concept of formal causation (and the related concepts of final and material causation) presuppose a respectively altogether different categoreal system. And this makes it hard to see how the two could possibly function within one and the same explanatory scheme.

    Hulswit, M. (2005). How causal is downward causation? Journal for General Philosophy of Science 36, 261-287: 278. 


    we do not think that the appeal to the supposed constraint exerted by the configuration on its own constituents in terms of formal causation is explanatory (again, under the monist assumptions adopted so far). The formal causation of the whole on its constituents would be in principle reducible to the constraining action exerted on the boundary conditions of these constituents, without loss of information or explanatory power. […] specific features of closed organizations do not require ascribing distinctive causal powers to the whole, since closure can be realized through the network of mutual, usually hierarchical, causal interactions. ‘Depending on the whole’, therefore, could simply mean ‘depending on the whole network of interactions’ without appealing to the whole as causal agent emergent on its own supervenience base.

    Mossio, M., Bich, L., Moreno, A. (2013). Emergence, closure and inter-level causation in biological systems. Erkenntnis, 78(2), 153-178: 172 (= Moreno, A. & Mossio, M. (2015). Biological Autonomy. A Philosophical and Theoretical Enquiry: 56; 58).