Causes and Things and Causes of Things

Seneca, Moral Epistles 65.11-14

“This mob of causes offered by Plato and Aristotle includes either too much or too little. For if they count as a cause anything without which something cannot be made then they have included too few. They should put time among the causes; nothing can happen without time. They should include place among the causes, since if there is nowhere for a thing to happen, it certainly will not happen. They should include movement, since nothing happens nor stops without motion. No art happens without motion; no change happens.

But since we are looking for the first, general cause, this ought to be simple. For matter is simple too. Do we ask what the cause is? Well, it is the reason that creates. This is god. For those things you have reported are not a bunch of independent causes but they depend upon one thing that creates them. You suggest that form is a cause? A creator puts form on their work. Form is a part of the cause, but it is not the cause. A pattern is also not a cause, but it a necessary tool of the cause. Artists find a pattern as necessary as a chisel or a file–art can make no progress without these.

And yet non of these things are part of the art or its cause. You may say, “The intention of the artist compels him to make something, this is the cause.” True, this may be a cause but it is not the efficient cause, it is an ancillary one. These kinds are countless, but we are seeking the general cause. What those philosophers say is against their customary clarity: they claim the whole universe, the completed work it is, is a cause. Yet there’s a big difference between an outcome and its cause.”

Haec, quae ab Aristotele et Platone ponitur, turba causarum aut nimium multa aut nimium pauca conprendit. Nam si, quocumque remoto quid effici non potest, id causam iudicant esse faciendi, pauca dixerunt. Ponant inter causas tempus; nihil sine tempore potest fieri. Ponant locum; si non fuerit, ubi fiat aliquid, ne fiet quidem. Ponant motum; nihil sine hoc nec fit nec perit. Nulla sine motu ars, nulla mutatio est. Sed nos nunc primam et generalem quaerimus causam. Haec simplex esse debet; nam et materia simplex est. Quaerimus, quid sit causa? Ratio scilicet faciens, id est deus. Ista enim, quaecumque rettulistis, non sunt multae et singulae causae, sed ex una pendent, ex ea, quae faciet. Formam dicis causam esse? Hanc inponit artifex operi; pars causae est, non causa.

Exemplar quoque non est causa, sed instrumentum causae necessarium. Sic necessarium est exemplar artifici, quomodo scalprum, quomodo lima; sine his procedere ars non potest. Non tamen hae partes artis aut causae sunt. “Propositum,” inquit, “artificis, propter quod ad faciendum aliquid accedit, causa est.” Ut sit causa, non est efficiens causa, sed superveniens. Hae autem innumerabiles sunt; nos de causa generali quaerimus. Illud vero non pro solita ipsis subtilitate dixerunt, totum mundum et consummatum opus causam esse. Multum enim interest inter opus et causam operis.

giant domino meme with latin insctrption that reads "there's a big difference between an outcome and its cause"

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