Representations of Efficient Causation in the Iliad
This chapter attempts to contextualize Aristotle’s writings on the efficient cause by considering a few ways in which the Iliad—still central to Greek education and thought in Aristotle’s day—raises and explores questions of causation. The poem’s provocative opening lines challenge the reader (or, originally, listener) to consider: is Achilles’ “anger” against Agamemnon more truly the cause of the deaths of the Achaeans than the Trojans who slay them? What is the relationship of Zeus’ “plan” to causation on the human plane? Finally, when once we begin investigating the causes of a given event, how do we decide that we have reached a satisfactory “beginning” in the chain? By introducing these difficult questions right away, Homer prepares us to consider the ethical implications of our answers later in the poem.
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