Forms as Causes and Explanations

Forms, and especially Aristotelian forms, are typically absent from contemporary discussions of causation and explanation. Despite this absence, I argue that Aristotelian forms have a role to play, both in causation and in explanation. First, I will explain what formal causation is. In short, having a certain form, viz. being a member of certain kind, makes an entity have a certain property. For instance, this elemental particle has negative charge because it is an electron. Second, I present the minimal ontological commitments of formal causation. Importantly, I argue that it does not presuppose hylomorphism, the doctrine that entities are form-matter compounds. Third, I will argue that reference to forms is ineliminable in many explanations. And that formal causation at least counts as a type of difference-making causation. Fourth, I will connect formal causation to current discussions in metaphysics and philosophy of science. Fifth, I will raise a number of open questions for (my) future research.