ARISTOTLE’S DIVINE FIRST MOVER THEORY

Subject: Famous Person
Type: Compare and Contrast Essay
Pages: 5
Word count: 1410
Topics: Plato, Aristotle, Metacognition
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Repeatedly, man has theorized the concept of being the origin of everything, as we know it. One such scholar was Aristotle whose work laid a foundation for both theology and metaphysics. Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and scientist in 300BC. His work mainly focused on establishing the motivations behind being especially through his theories of natural philosophy and first mover. This paper will address his interpretation of the first mover or unmoved mover from a physics and metaphysics perspective. This discussion will evaluate the metaphysical and physical attributes of the theory as well as many similarities and differences that may arise. By doing so, it is possible to establish that Aristotle defines the divine first mover as God; however, the attribution process seems to shed light on various convergences and divergences of the perspectives.

Physics perspective

Aristotle used concepts relevant to physics to conceptualize the unmoved mover. According to the scholar, all moveable objects have potential despite being in an actual state. It means that an object can move or change in form. However, since motion is eternal, this movement needs to be initiated by a mover. As such, the scholar created the idea that motion can only exist when an object with potential receives a push from a mover. For example, a ball can be relocated from one position to another. However, it can only achieve this change through an initiation of movement from a human. Using this rationale, one can establish the presence of a first mover by tracking back on the motion. Additionally, since regression is finite, there has to an initiator of this movement indicating the presence of a first mover. However, this action is eternal meaning that its initiator is equally as everlasting. Achieving this eternality of motion may signify that the first mover does not have potential because this mover does not have a cause. As such, the first mover is always in actuality. In addition, Aristotle claimed that there could only be one first mover since all motion is a result of a subsequent action. The movement, which is continuous, needs to have a single source that initiated all movement. Therefore, only one first mover can exist to motivate this change. However, due to the unique understanding of this motion, Aristotle assumed that the unmoved mover lived outside of the physical realm due to the absence of potentiality and magnitude.  

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Metaphysical perspective

Aristotle considered the spiritual discipline to be the first philosophy or theology concerning the study of being as being. In this theory, Aristotle builds on the previous metaphysical principles to generate an understanding of God as the first mover. According to the scholar, God is the first mover. He reaches this conclusion through an assessment of several fundamental concepts of physics and metaphysics. Much like physics, Aristotle claims that motion is eternal and that sensible and perishable substances need a mover to actualize potential. Since the first mover is non-sensible and endless, meaning that it cannot be moved or die. He also acknowledges the actual nature of the first mover that makes a basis for the theological interpretation. He defends this actuality by the assumption that potential has to be actualized at some point that would mean ending time and motion that are eternal. Therefore, if the movement is perpetual, then its initiator is equally so. Additionally, since this action is responsible for being, it is necessary and right since its alternative is non-existence. The actual, significant, and good nature of the unmoved mover justifies divinity. After all, the unmoved mover is by definition in an ‘actual’ state meaning that it does not move to initiate action; instead, this motion is born out of thought or desire. According to Aristotle, these somewhat divine qualities associated with God makes him a creator through reflection. In fact, the scholar claimed that the only thing God does is think about thought, which is the motion itself. Additionally, the presence of thought signifies that God is alive albeit in an indivisible existence free of magnitude.

Similarities between the theories

These theories of physics and metaphysics are based on the particular principles of cause and effect. The logical argument assumes that every motion is a result of a successive movement and so on. As such, every event occurs due to a particular cause. In this understanding of cause and effect, the theory of causality leads to the determination of the first object. The physics approach follows motion to establish the original purpose of the movement. Similarly, Aristotle applies the same principle to the metaphysical interpretation of the diving first mover. The theory of causality helps to identify the presence of a first mover away from the basic tenets of physics such as magnitude.

Another significant similarity is the employment of basic concepts of motion to arrive at the first or unmoved mover. Some of the prominent aspects of action are the principles of actuality and potentiality. Aristotle defines potentiality as the possibility of the movement for an object at rest. Therefore, objects that can move distinctively have this potential energy. According to the author, potentiality always has to be actualized to establish whether the object is moveable and vice versa. Therefore, the first mover has to be actual since potentiality would contradict the eternal nature of motion and time. It is at this point that Aristotle compared time to an action claiming that there are both infinitely divisible. He also indicates that the eternality of motion arises from a circular motion that motivates its continuity. Each perspective employs these concepts of movement are foundational for the theory.

Each perspective point to a single eternal first mover. The understanding here is that successive motion needs an originator. Therefore, it is only logical that all change began with a single point or action. The physics interpretation defends this position by claiming that one mover can just cause the first movement. The metaphysical approach argues that the first change occurs in the outermost sphere of the heavens indicating that there can only be one initiator.

Differences

The main difference between the perspectives is the focus of the study. In physics, Aristotle considered the motion as the subject matter of the investigation. As such, he followed the regression in the movement back to its source, which may be within or without the moveable object. The physical attribution of the first mover is developed from an assessment of current and applicable physical attributes of the universe. On the other hand, the metaphysical approach seems to focus on the first mover as being the reason for being. As such, this interpretation does not focus on the idea of motion but the substances involved in the process. In doing so, the philosopher expanded the understanding of physics to study the nature of existence of all substances. Therefore, rather than focusing on the movement or changes, the approach narrows down to the moved and the mover. 

Another significant difference is the conceptualization of God or a divine initiator of motion that is present in the metaphysical interpretation and absent in the physics perspective. According to metaphysics, the first mover is actual meaning that it cannot move. This categorization falls under the non-sensible and eternal description. Therefore, the only way to initiate motion is through desire and thought. This ability to think and produce movement leads to a spiritual understanding of the first mover. Additionally, the fact that the first mover is eternal but capable of thought indicates that it is alive in a different way than all other moveable objects. This conceptualization of the first mover further reemphasizes the divine nature of God. The concept of God is absent from the physics perspective.  According to the physics approach, the first mover need not be an entity like God. Instead, it can conform to any particular definition that includes lack of magnitude and fully actual. The physics approach acknowledges its deficiency in identifying this first mover. The description itself falls outside the laws of physics.

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Conclusion

In summation, Aristotle’s theory of the first or unmoved mover seeks to define the origin of everything. Using physics principles, Aristotle was able to develop a description of the first mover. He described this mover as a singular, eternal mover that does not have magnitude. However, this perspective is limited to the physical attributes of the universe. Nevertheless, this information served as a foundation for the metaphysical approach that identified God or a divine entity as the first mover.

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  1. Bodnar, Istvan. “Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy.” Plato.Stanford.Edu. Last modified 2012. Accessed December 1, 2017. 
  2. Cohen, S. Marc. “Aristotle’s Metaphysics.” Plato.Stanford.Edu. Last modified 2016. Accessed December 1, 2017. 
  3. Falcon, Andrea. “Aristotle on Causality.” Plato.Stanford.Edu. Last modified 2015. Accessed December 1, 2017. 
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