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Significantly enough, there is no attempt to argue for the existenceof four fundamental modes of causality in the first book of theParts of Animals. Evidently, Aristotle expects his reader to bealready familiar with his general account of the four causes as wellas his defense of final causality. The problem that here concernsAristotle is presented in the following way: since both the final andthe efficient cause are involved in the explanation of naturalgeneration, we have to establish what is first and what is second(PA 639 b 12–13). Aristotle argues that there is no other wayto explain natural generation than by reference to what lies at theend of the process. This has explanatory priority over the principlethat is responsible for initiating the process ofgeneration. Aristotle relies on the analogy between artisticproduction and natural generation, and the teleological model that hehas developed for the explanation of artistic production. Consider,for example, house-building. There is no other way to explain how ahouse is built, or is being built, than by reference to the finalresult of the process, the house. More directly, the bricks and thebeams are put together in the particular way they are for the sake ofachieving a certain end: the production of the house. This is truealso in the case of natural generation. In this context Aristotle'slogan is “generation is for the sake of substance, notsubstance for the sake of generation” (PA 640 a18–19). This means that the proper way to explain the generation of anorganism like an animal, or the formation of its parts, is byreference to the product that lies at the end of the process; that isto say, a substance of a certain type. From Aristotle we learn thatEmpedocles explained the articulation of the human spine intovertebrae as the result of the twisting and turning that takes placewhen the fetus is in the womb of the mother. Aristotle finds thisexplanation unacceptable (PA 640 a 19–26). To begin with, thefetus must have the power to twist and turn in the way it does, andEmpedocles does not have an explanation for this fact. Secondly, andmore importantly, Empedocles overlooks the fact that it takes aman to generate a man. That is to say, the originating principleof the generation is a fully developed man which is formally the sameas the final outcome of the process of generation. It is only bylooking at the fully developed man that we can understand why ourspine is articulated into vertebrae and why the vertebrae are arrangedin the particular way they are. This amounts to finding the role thatthe spine has in the life of a fully developed man. Moreover, it isonly by looking at the fully developed man that we can explain why theformation of the vertebrae takes place in the particular way itdoes. (For further information about the explanatory priority of thefinal over the efficient cause, see Code 1997, pp. 127–143.)

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Each Aristotelian science consists in the causal investigation of aspecific department of reality. If successful, such an investigationresults in causal knowledge; that is, knowledge of the relevant orappropriate causes. The emphasis on the concept of cause explains whyAristotle developed a theory of causality which is commonly known asthe doctrine of the four causes. For Aristotle, a firm grasp of what acause is, and how many kinds of causes there are, is essential for asuccessful investigation of the world around us.

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In the Physics, Aristotle builds on his general account of thefour causes in order to provide the student of nature with theexplanatory resources indispensable for a successful investigation ofthe natural world. However, the Physics does not provideall the explanatory resources for all naturalinvestigations. Aristotle returns to the topic of causality in thefirst book of the Parts of Animals. This is a relativelyindependent and self-contained treatise entirely devoted to developingthe explanatory resources required for a successful study of animalsand animal life. Here Aristotle completes his theory of causality byarguing for the explanatory priority of the final cause over theefficient cause.