CA and Aristotle’s Four Causes

Although Wolfram’s book shows how to generate complexity, it says very little how to reduce or simplify it. Which is a pity since I encounter it in my practice. Among other my task is to reduce the extreme complexity of the human organism to a manageable number of components, otherwise cure is unthinkable.


In the search for ideas and methods to simplify the human organism, I discovered Aristotle’s ‘Four Causes’. Aristotle was a biologist with a thorough understanding of medicine. I believe that his ‘Four Causes’ were intended to simplify the complexity of Nature, although he himself does not mention complexity. In order to apply them today they have to be recast in a modern form.

A good philosophical treatment of the Four Causes is in:


Nature presents itself to us as change, and Aristotle distinguishes between four types of change which he calls causes. Suppose that you are watching on your monitor an evolving CA. You pause, observe the CA state and ask how  may I explain its behavior. Given a CA state, what are  the causes that will shape the next one? According to Aristotle this change has four causes:


1. Material cause, is the CA structure.

2. Formal cause, is its rule.

3. Efficient cause, is the processor which by iteration drives the program to the next state.


These three, account for the change in Wolfram’s CA. However they do not suffice to describe change observed in medicine (life), when the last cause has to be considered as well.

4. Final cause, or what is the purpose of this change? Take the proliferon. It’s final cause is to maximize its resources.
Final cause is the final attractor in which the system will settle down.


Their significance in the description of disease. Since lacking the fourth cause CA are inadequate to model disease. I therefore modified them in two ways: 1. Cells collect resources. 2. Their life is finite: In this setting the Final Cause is Optimality. Each living form thrives to optimize itself. Optimization is the hallmark of life.


Additional reading on CA and the four causes.
Ca-1 Ca-3, Ca-48, Ca-49, Ca-60


p.s. What might be the final cause of the CA which I am watching on my monitor? To get me a salary. . . When you broaden your scope, the final cause is everywhere, even in Physics…
An additional interpretation of the meaning of cause:
In order to explain an observed change one needs to answer four why-did-it-happen questions

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