Definition of formal cause in US English:

formal cause


  • (in Aristotelian thought) the pattern which determines the form taken by something.

    • ‘The four aspects are the formal cause, the material cause, the efficient cause, and the final cause.’
    • ‘The formal cause of the city-state is its constitution (politeia).’
    • ‘In fact, universals are formal causes in relation to their individuals, and individuals are material causes in relation to their universals.’
    • ‘Aristotle then links essence with his theory of causes, being identified variously with its final cause and with its formal cause.’
    • ‘Aristotle, however, does not regard efficient causes as radically different from material and formal causes.’