Colloquium: September 23rd

Title: " The Moving Cause of Artifacts: the role of techne in metaphysical explanation "

Speaker: Dr. Margaret Cameron (University of Victoria)

Friday, September 23rd at 2:30pm CLE A203


The view that the essence of artifacts is their function is ubiquitous in contemporary philosophy. Artifact function is derived from human intention, and accordingly the essences of artifacts are derivative. A more complex explanation of artifacts is found in Aristotle’s philosophy, but not without problems of its own. Artistic occupations (e.g., house building, music making, etc.) involve techne, which Aristotle defines as ‘a state concerned with making, involving a true course of reasoning’. A techne is an intellectual virtue, which is a making, not a doing. But citing the artisan’s intention, along with the material and formal factors that go to making up the artifact, will not be adequate as an explanation of how the artifact comes to be. It will not give the most fundamental (to akrotaton) explanation of the artifact’s generation. Crucially, an adequate explanation needs to include the artistry or skill (techne) of the artisan. This overlooked cause is known as the moving, or efficient, cause, and according to Aristotle it is a necessary cause of an artifact’s being. Far from being a merely trivial observation that necessarily artifacts are made by artisans, the role of the moving cause turns out to be sophisticated and explanatory. In what follows, I will reconstruct Aristotle’s theory of artifact generation and being, paying special attention to the necessary but overlooked role of the moving cause.