Effectuation, Cause and constraints with Aristotle

temps estimé pour lire ce billet : 2 minutes


At #JFE19 we discussed Effectuation , and a lot about causes versus effects. Out of Serenedipity, the next day, I just found the 4 types of causes, according to Aristotle.

In which I see the :

  • “final cause” being the “effect,
  • the antecedent being”the cause“,
  • and ”the contraints” connected to the talk we had on goals versus vision and quasi-decomposability.1

Here we go with the text from 2:

According to Aristotle (Posterior Analytics) there were four basic types of causes:

  1. Antecedent, necessitating or precipitating causes,
  2. Final causes.
  3. Efficient or constraining causes
  4. Formal causes,

Antecedent Causes

Or precipitating causes relate to past events, actions or decisions that influence the present state of a thing or event through a linear chain of “action and reaction”. This is probably the most common form of causal explanation that we use to describe things.

Final Causes

Relate to future objectives, goals or visions which guide or influence the present state of the system giving current actions meaning, relevance or purpose. Final causes involve the motives or “ends” for which something exists. In this sense, final causes often relate to a thing’s role or identity with respect to the larger system of which it is a part.

Constraining Causes

Involves ongoing relationships, presupositions and boundary conditions (or lack of boundaries) within a system which maintain it’s state (regardless of the chain of events that brought it there). Constraining causes tend to be more “systemic” in nature, and may be defined in terms of potential constraints which were not present as well as those which were.

Formal Causes

Essentially relate to fundamental definitions and perceptions of something. The “formal cause” of a phenomenon is that which gives the definition of its essential character. Formal causes actually say more about the perceiver thant the phenomenon being perceived. This type of cause is related to what Aristotle called “intuition”.

Clearly, any one of these causes taken to be the whole explanation by itself is likely to lead to an incomplete picture. In today’s science we look mostly for mechanical causes, or what Aristotle referred to as “antecedent” causes. When we study a phenomenon scientifically we tend to look for the linear cause-and-effect chain which brought it about. These understandings are certainly important and useful but do not necessarily tell us the whole story of these phenomena.

Identifying constraining causes would involve examining what holds a particular phenomenon’s current structure in place, regardless of what brought it there.

Searching for final causes, would involve exploring the potential aims or ends of these phenomena with respect to the rest of nature.


jvaldivia. “Summary of the Book Strategies of Genius, Aristotle.” Steemit, February 19, 2018. https://steemit.com/book/@jvaldivia/summary-of-the-book-strategy-of-genius-aristotle.

Simon, Herbert A. “Sur La Complexité Des Systèmes Complexes.” Revue Internationale de Systémique 4, no. 2 (1990): 125–45. http://dea128fc.free.fr/Doc%20en%20stock/simon6_complexite%20de%20la%20complexite.pdf.


  1. Simon, “Sur La Complexité Des Systèmes Complexes.” 
  2. Jvaldivia, “Summary of the Book Strategies of Genius, Aristotle.” 
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