formal cause (plural formal causes)

  1. (philosophy, natural science) The design, pattern, or pure concept of a thing, which gives form or structure to its matter.
    • 1998, R. J. Schork, Greek and Hellenic Culture in Joyce, ISBN 9780813016092, p. 176 (Google preview):
      In the production of a statue of Athena for the Parthenon, the bronze is the material cause; the shape and design of the statue is the formal cause; the sculptor is the efficient cause; the honor of the goddess (and the glory of Athens) is the final cause.

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