Thoughts, please.

I have a question regarding a property of artifacts.

I was pondering
this evening about one of the artifacts touched on in Physics II.1, vis. Antiphon's bed. While it is obviously true to say that it has its form qua artifact extrinsically, that is, from the artist, could it also further be said that if there was no one to use a bed, it would merely be shaped wood? In what way does the artificial form exist if the intention of the artist/users of the artifact is lost or absent? I am inclined to say the artificial form no longer exist, or only in a sort of potency, as 'shaped wood.' But I am not sure. How are we to name the 'bed' shape of the bed apart from the artist intention?


  1. Frater Asinus said...
    ho mathetes,

    I am convinced that the formal cause of the articfact as artifact, lies in the mind of the user of the artifact, if not wholly, then at least predominantly. These reason I make this qualification is that the object must have some proportionality to form imposed by the user, i.e. something that might work well as a bed would act poorly as a toothpick. This proportionality lies mainly on the part of the matter, (as Aristotle says the matter must be proportioned to the form) but, one can deny that the artifact does have some form inherent to it.
    Such are my thoughts.
    Frater Asinus said...
    By the way, I like the additional label. It seems to be an appropriate modus.
    Natural_Inquirer said...
    Perhaps here is an example where the difference between the formal and final causes in things. It might also be a difference of first and second actuality. When we speak of the form of a "this thing" we understand it to be a first actuality of a "this thing". When it is in operation towards its end we call it second actuality. So why can't it be a bed according to formal cause, shaped wood according to material cause, and sleeping artifact according to agent cause. But it is only finally a bed when someone is lieing in it according to final cause.
    Natural_Inquirer said...
    Further, it seems to me that the first actuality is given by the artisan and not the user. Therefore, it seems that it is a bed according to art due to the form imposed by the artisan but not a bed according to use, which would belong to final and not formal causality.
    ho mathetes said...
    Hmm. Thank you for your thoughts gentlemen. This is what I have been thinking. It is the artist which renders the matter proportional to its artistic form. However, it seems that this determination need not be be necessary for the wood to take on the proper artistic form of 'bed.' Consider if I sleep on a felled log in a woods. Surely the form of the log for me is as a bed (that is, after all, what I am doing with it). In this case, the proportionally of the matter is, if you will, by nature. It seems to follow that the artist's intention, as such, is not necessary to render the matter disposed, nor sufficient to bring the artistic form into act. Thus it seems to conversely follow that the 'bed' in my bedroom is secumdum naturam a bed only when it is used so (i.e. in use it bears the quality, in the sense of form, which is 'bedness'). The fact that I habitually think it a bed gives it no in re form, and my intention, even if it is habitual, is a merely a principle of the 'bedness.' NI, I thus think I am in slight disagreement with your position as stated.
    Natural_Inquirer said...
    Thank you HM. But I wish to offer a different example of art they may illuminate my position. The artistic matter, due to its nature, is already disposed towards certain types of artifacts. No artist makes a statue out our leaves because they are not disposed towards formation in that way.

    Let us take as an example some clay and a potter. Now the clay, as matter towards some artifact is proportional to being shaped in any way whatsoever. However, the pitcher does not exist until the clay is properly shaped and fired. The imposition of the artistic form upon the matter properly disposed results in the artifact, in this case, the pitcher.

    Now if the pitcher was never 'used' to hold and pour fluid, but rather placed on a shelf, it is still called a pitcher in virtue of the artistic form imposed. I offer as the reason for this being that it is specifically the artifact which can hold and pour fluid. And when we speak of the one in use and the one on the shelf, using the same name, we are not speaking equivocally. Since the form looks to the end, it seems that one can properly and univocally name the artifact in virtue of its artistic form whether it be in use or not.

    Finally, with respect to the example of the felled log which someone might sleep on, I don't know of anyone who would honestly call the naturally fallen log a bed in the univocal sense. Rather, it seems like one might speak about lieing on a log, reclining on a log, napping on a tree, etc. Nobody ever says that they went to bed. This I attribute to the absence of the artistic form.
    Frater Asinus said...
    "A thing understood is able to have a relation to the understanding either per se or per accidens. It has a per se order to that which it depends on according to its being, but it is has an order per accidens to the intellect to which it is knowable. Just as if we say that the house is compared to the intellect of the artist per se, but it is related per accidens to the intellect on which it does not depend."
    (ST,I.I. Q.16, a.1)

    That is to say that an artifact is what it is, that is the form of the artifact depends on the understanding of the artist essentially, and upon anyone else accidentally. My using the thing with the same intention as the artist only coincides with the causative power of the that prime agent. If I use the hammer as a shovel, I am merely imposing some new form on the thing, and to this extent I am acting, however poorly, as an artist. However, if the object in question is a mere stone, and I call it a shovel and Socrates calls it a hammer. This does not entail any material change on the part of the stone in anyway.
    Therefore, we can see in more complex cases that no matter how fine or sophisticated the art, it comes down to some form being imposed on some natural material by an artist, and no matter how much effort he puts in to sculpting a marble statuette. If some buffoon uses it to put nails in the wall, it has become a hammer, despite all one's protestations. This is precisely because insofar as it has the form of hammer it essentially relies on the intellect of the buffoon, our present artist, and only accidentally on anyone else, as was said.

    NI, I disagree also with your last comment about the log, but I wish to avoid semantics. I will only briefly point out a famous adage to cement my point. "One man's trash is another man's treasure." The same thing under two distinct rationes. So also, what to you is merely a log in the woods, can be to another a bed or even a house. Crazier things have happened.

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