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Aristotle’s Concept of the Prime Mover

Tuesday, January 27, 2009
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The world is transient; it is constantly changing

If nothing acted on A, then it would stay the same and not move. So if A is moving it must be being moved by B, which in turn is being moved by C, and so on.

Aristotle posits that all movement (not just motion but all kinds of change) has a mover

The concept of movement or change is eternal - there cannot be a first or last change. For example, we can observe movement in ‘the heavens’ (in space) with no apparent beginning or end.

Aristotle argued that this eternal movement points to a mover that does not move itself. It cannot be the efficient cause of movement because an efficient causer would move itself.

Newton’s third law of motion:
‘action and reaction are equal and opposite’

Thus Aristotle argues that the unmoved mover or Prime Mover must be a final cause. The Prime Mover causes movement as the object of desire and love.

For Aristotle, the final cause of movement is a love and desire for God. God is perfection, everything wants to imitate perfection, and therefore everyone is drawn to it – creating movement without moving itself.

God exists necessarily – he does not depend on anything else for his existence, and cannot be thought of as not existing. He never changes or has the potential to change, he is eternal. Since God cannot create movement by physical means, he must instead create movement by drawing things to himself.

Aristotle defined badness or evil as the absence of actuality that God most perfectly has; a lack of something that ought to be there. Thus there is no defect in something that exists necessarily.

The Prime Mover is immaterial. Matter is capable of being acted on thus has the potential to change. God is immaterial and is incapable of performing a physical action. The activity of God therefore must be spiritual and intellectual - thought.

God only thinks about himself – nothing else is a fit subject. Thus God only knows himself and remains eternally unaware of our existence and the physical world in which we exist.

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