The question I'm asking is essentially how the formal cause of an entity is related to its final cause, though I'd also appreciate feedback on whether these questions are the same. From what I know, the logos is the reason of being for an entity, and is identical to its formal cause; whereas, the telos or final cause of an entity is that entity's end or goal. To draw an example: the definition of a blade (could be) a sharp piece of metal, and its end is to cut. But, we furthermore define the sharpness of a thing as the ability to cut. This seems to be a coincidence of the logos and telos of the blade, albeit with the caveat that while a blade may fail to cut and not cease to be a blade (or be non-well-functioning and fail to fulfill its telos), if it was never sharp then it would never have been a blade (or fulfill its logos). I know that SEP writes in Aristotle on Causality:

Aristotle goes on by adding a specification on his doctrine of the four causes: the form and the end often coincide, and they are formally the same as that which produces the change (Phys. II 7, 198 a 23–26).

I wanted to ask if this coincidence of the formal and final cause is true for all well-functioning entities, and if there was a causal (not temporal) precedence between them if they do.

EDIT: From the commentary @Conifold provided, it would seem to Aquinas is suggesting an entity acts through its formal cause for its final cause. However, does this extend to efficient causes? From what I've read, Aristotle treats art/techne as efficient causes of the things generated, and not particular entities, so substituting this in his section on the generation of man:

For the final cause (telos/end) of the efficient cause (techne/generation of man) is the formal cause (logos/human form), but this form is not the end of a (particular) man. Rather through this form (a particular) man acts for his end.

Would this imply that the formal and final cause of the efficient cause are one, rather than that of the particular agent?

  • Aquinas suggests in his commentary on Physics, 242 that the coincidence does not happen always and in all respects:"It often happens that... the formal cause and the final cause are one in number. This must be understood to apply to the final cause of generation, not, however, to the final cause of the thing generated. For the end of the generation of man is the human form, but this form is not the end of man. Rather through this form man acts for his end... Not every end is a form. And because of this it is significant that he said ‘often’."
    – Conifold
    Commented May 11 at 23:43
  • Thank you @Conifold, much appreciated. I meant to reply by comment, but it was too long so I edited my original post. Commented May 12 at 0:19

1 Answer 1


The Aristotelian terms of what you are talking about is entelechy (εντελέχεια) : εν-τελος-εχει : inside-end(telos)-contains (female ~ becoming of).

entelechy is the process of manifestation and evolution of beings : a being manifests (or realizes) entelechy when the "material" (ύλη) from which the being consists of, is transformed from a state of a potentiality to the state of realization (manifested in reality) due to the form that it inherited from the creator, so it (or in order to) fulfills the purpose (end goal - telos) of its existence. https://el.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/%CE%B5%CE%BD%CF%84%CE%B5%CE%BB%CE%AD%CF%87%CE%B5%CE%B9%CE%B1

(the translation is mine; there are many ways the etymology can be translated, based on the context)

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