Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Aristotle on the Unmoved Mover

I. The Unmoved Mover
For Aristotle, matter does not provide its own motion. It is a bundle of potentialities.
The entire universe could be motionless. Everything could have the potential to move but these things have to have their potentiality actualized by something else.
Motion, therefore, always needs explanation.
II. A temporally first cause?
A. For all the Greeks, the idea of a universe that was created out of nothing and had an absolute beginning made no sense.
B. But even if something had been in motion for all of eternity it would still need a cause.
III. The source of all motion
A. If Aristotle is right, then a basic strand must be responsible for all motion.
B. This basic strand must not itself be in motion
C. Therefore there must be something that does not move that causes everything else to move. This is the Unmoved Mover, Aristotle’s version of God.

IV. The Nature of the Unmoved Mover
A. This unmoved mover is not the personal God of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
B. One well-known evangelical Christian tract, the Four Spiritual Laws, begins with the statement “God Loves You and has a Wonderful Plan for your Life.” Aristotle’s God doesn’t love you and has no plan for your life. To love would be to have an emotional life, to have needs and weaknesses. Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover is just too great for that.
V. How the Unmoved Mover Moves You
A. As indicated earlier, the Unmoved Mover is not affected by anything
B. The unmoved mover cannot be an efficient cause.
C. The Unmoved Mover moves things in nature because all things (unconsciously) desire to be like the Unmoved Mover. Things in nature seek to fulfill their potentialities.
D. Just as you can be in love with someone and that someone can remain unmoved, all things in nature are moved by Aristotle’s God, but God remains unmoved.

VI. The Highest Sort of Reality
A. The Unmoved Mover is the Highest sort of reality. We are incomplete and never finished, but the Unmoved Mover is always complete.
B. It must be engaging in the highest sort of activity: thought, or more particularly, rational thought.
C. It cannot think about particulars of the changing world. So it must be thinking about thinking.
D. Despite obvious differences with the biblical tradition, this concept of God was influential with the medieval theologians, especially St. Thomas Aquinas.


Ben said...


Ben said...

that was by me feel free to shoot me an email

luke said...

Just add in Trinitarian Theology, a God who exists in a perfect loving relationship within Himself and now the unmoved mover becomes the source of perfect love and has the ability to express love and emotion without succumbing to needs and weaknesses because He is complete within Himself and loves out of the excess of His complete love. Now the unmoved mover can be described with the phrase "God is Love."