​​​​I N T R I N S I C​   C A U S E S

Causes that exist within an object



That into which something is made or exist.

The universal "whatness" of a thing - not the form, shape, or outline, but the thing's essence.  The Joiner's Mallet's essence may be defined as follows: a type of hammer composed of wood used in woodworking for the driving of chisels or tapping of joints.   Note how the final cause defines its essence.

That out of which something is made or exist.
The Joiner's Mallet must be made of a dense wood material, of which maple, cedar elm, osage orange, and oak are appropriate.

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E X T R I N S I C​   C A U S E S 

Causes that exist without an object



That for the sake of which something is made or exist.

This tool was conceived for the purpose of facilitating his woodworking craft in the driving of his chisels and the tapping of joints in such a way as to prevent marring to both the chisels and the mallet itself.

That by which something is made or exist.
The Joiner's Mallet is principally produced by the application of the art of woodworking skills by the master craftsman. 

​In summary, the craftsman first conceives of the need for the joiner's mallet in the context of the larger project of building the cabinetry for a house.  The specific purpose (Final Cause) of the joiner's mallet, the driving of chisels and tapping together of joints, is the first cause that moves him to initiate making this mallet; and this same purpose influences the other causal principles of the mallet.  He moves to apply his art of woodworking skills to effect (Efficient Cause) the idea he has of this mallet, the Exemplar in his mind, into the matter of the oak wood (Material Cause) out of which the form (Formal Cause) of the joiner's mallet is finally born and the purpose of this tool is finally achieved.  In that; the dictum about Final Causality, first in causality and last in existence, is fulfilled.​

T H E   U N D E R L Y I N G   P R I N C I P L E S   O F   A L L   T H I N G S   M A D E

Author: Paul Benavente | Stella Maris Architecture | November 21, 2018

Illustrations: © 2018 Madison Brake | brakemadison@gmail.com

The previous article explained the four underlying principles that define our natural and artificial environment.  These principles revolve around the general  inquiry we ask when considering an object: "WHY?"  Why is an object such a way or why did it change into such a way?  This question of why is an inquiry of cause and there are four of them: Material, Formal, Efficient, and Final.  We first illustrated these causes as they exist in the natural environment using the example of an oak tree;​ for as art imitates nature, we must first learn the masterful display of these causal principles in nature to implement them well in art.  Therefore, let us now begin to understand how these causal principles exist in the artificial environment in the objects we create within the architecture and construction professions.

To begin this journey, let us enter the workshop of a woodworking craftsman and consider the working of these principles in his making of the most elemental object of the constructed world: the tool; specifically a specialized type of hammer known as the Joiner's Mallet.


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In the craftsman's consideration of the making of this tool, it is the Final Cause that commands preeminence, for he first considers for what purpose will he make this tool.  That is why the Final Cause is said to be the first in the order of causality.  The Final Cause is also said to the last in the order of existence, for while the craftsman initiates his work in view of an end, that end does not come into existence until the completion of the work.  This end, or final cause, is what first moves the craftsman to employ the means to make this tool.  This employment of means is termed the Efficient Cause.

In turn, it is the Efficient Cause that is the causality of the Material Cause and Formal Cause of the Joiner's Mallet.  By means of his craft, the matter of the mallet is caused to receive the form of the mallet and by these same means, the form of the mallet is caused to inhere in the matter of the wood.

A second point to consider about the preeminence of final cause is its establishment of hierarchy in view of the end pursued.  There exists an ascending order of ends, for which a project or thing is fabricated.  In this scenario, let us say the craftsman is commissioned to build all the cabinetry for a house.  His order of thinking may be a consideration of the storage for the house and would descend to the joiner's mallet in the following manner: for the sake of providing the storage, cabinetry will be constructed, of which, cavities and drawers shall accommodate storage.  For the sake of assembling these drawers, the technique of dovetail joinery shall be employed.  For the sake of fashioning this joinery into wood, chisels shall be used; and for the sake of driving these chisels and tapping the joints of the drawers together, a joiner's mallet shall be wielded.  

A third way that the Final Cause commands preeminence is in how the consideration of the end or purpose of the joiner's mallet shall inform and shape the other causes.  This purpose, driving these chisels and tapping the joints, shall influence the selection of the means, form, and material for the realization of this mallet.


Having established why this joiner's mallet shall be made, the craftsman will initiate the means to make it.  The craftsman possesses the art of woodworking skills as his trade and his employment of this art will be be the means he utilizes to make the joiner's mallet.  By specifying the art rather than the craftsman, we distance the making from psychological factors such as desires, intentions, and beliefs found in the craftsman as causes of the tool and instead focus on that which is also found in the craftsman and which more aptly describe the principle  Efficient Cause of the tool.  For the art of woodworking found in the craftsman and manifested in his making will describe the whole process and methods that make this mallet; beginning with the first selective cuts of the wood to the last expertly joining together of the head to the handle.​​


By this art of woodworking skills shall the craftsman begin to inhere the form of the joiner's mallet into the wood.  The craftsman has in his mind an idea of the mallet before he begins and this idea is known as an Exemplar of the mallet.  This Exemplar is a special mode of Formal Cause known as Exemplary Cause and its difference is that it exists extrinsically to the mallet, being in the craftsman's mind.  At completion, when the idea of the mallet exists intrinsically to the mallet, then we can truly say that the joiner's mallet is the Formal Cause of the object.

The Formal Cause is the form, the essence, the whatness of an object.  It is those various abstractions of toolness and hammerness, driving of chisels, and tapping of joints that are invested into this object and give this object Form.  And we give precision to these abstractions which together make this object in what is called the definition - the intelligible expression of a thing's quiddity (whatness).  The formula of the definition, like a formula for an medicinal elixir composed of various substances, is composed of these various abstractions, which together unite to define this joiner's mallet.  Although this formula may describe various parts - generic, material, and specific - of this mallet, it is not the toolness (generic) or wood (material) that principally describes the essence of the mallet, but its specific hammerness and its driving of chisels and tapping of joints.  It must be emphasized how the essential characteristics of this object are those of its Final Cause or purpose.  The purpose of the mallet principally animates the form; clarifies the essence of the joiner's mallet.​

For the essence of the joiner's mallet is said to be perfect when it communicates a perfection to another, which it does in the attainment of its end or final cause; the driving of chisels and tapping of joints.  And the more perfectly the material, formal, and efficient cause attain this perfection, the more perfect may we say this joiner's mallet is.

This questioning of what is an object's essence and to what perfection is this essence ordained is crucial in the undertaking of this simple tool and even more so in the undertaking of more complex works of art such as architecture.


Similar to Formal Cause, by this art of woodworking skills, shall the craftsman begin to cause the wood to receive the form of the mallet; not the shape only, but the whole essence of the mallet.  The matter or material cause; therefore, is fundamental for this tool's existence.  The final cause, or purpose, shall inform the craftsman's consideration of the appropriate matter for the mallet.  A moderation is in order, for the if the material be too hard such as a tool of steel, it will damage the chisel and the wood being assembled.  And if the material be too soft such as pine or douglas fir, the mallet itself will be damaged in its use.  Rather, a hardwood of remarkable density, such as maple, cedar elm, or oak, will do.