Volume 97, Issue 2, Spring 2023
The Philosophy of John Buridan
Buridan’s Radical View of Final Causality and Its Influence
In his commentary on Aristotle’s Physics, John Buridan (c. 1300–1361) presents his well-known rejection of final causality. The main problem he sees with it is that it requires the cause to exist before the effect. Despite this, he retains the terminology of ends. This has led to some difficulty interpreting Buridan’s view. In this article, I argue that one should not misunderstand Buridan’s terminology and think that he still retains some use or explanatory function for final causality in nature. To make this point, I look first at Buridan’s text, but then also at three thinkers who discuss Buridan’s view in detail: Albert of Saxony (d. 1390), Paul of Venice (d. 1429), and Luis Coronel (d. 1531). They all have a very clear idea of what Buridan’s view was and understand that it entails a rejection of final causality, but they also all preserve his distinctive terminology. Paul of Venice especially discusses and criticizes Buridan’s view in detail. Besides confirming my interpretation of the rejection of final causality, this study also shows that the view was extremely influential well into the sixteenth century and attributed to Buridan throughout two centuries.