Unmoved mover

The unmoved mover (Ancient Greek: ὃ οὐ κινούμενον κινεῖ, romanizedho ou kinoúmenon kineî, lit. 'that which moves without being moved')[1] or prime mover (Latin: primum movens) is a concept advanced by Aristotle as a primary cause (or first uncaused cause)[2] or "mover" of all the motion in the universe.[3] As is implicit in the name, the "unmoved mover" moves other things, but is not itself moved by any prior action. In Book 12 (Greek: Λ) of his Metaphysics, Aristotle describes the unmoved mover as being perfectly beautiful, indivisible, and contemplating only the perfect contemplation: self-contemplation. He equates this concept also with the active intellect. This Aristotelian concept had its roots in cosmological speculations of the earliest Greek pre-Socratic philosophers and became highly influential and widely drawn upon in medieval philosophy and theology. St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, elaborated on the unmoved mover in the Quinque viae.

First philosophy

Aristotle argues, in Book 8 of the Physics and Book 12 of the Metaphysics, "that there must be an immortal, unchanging being, ultimately responsible for all wholeness and orderliness in the sensible world".[4]

In the Physics (VIII 4–6) Aristotle finds "surprising difficulties" explaining even commonplace change, and in support of his approach of explanation by four causes, he required "a fair bit of technical machinery".[5] This "machinery" includes potentiality and actuality, hylomorphism, the theory of categories, and "an audacious and intriguing argument, that the bare existence of change requires the postulation of a first cause, an unmoved mover whose necessary existence underpins the ceaseless activity of the world of motion".[6] Aristotle's "first philosophy", or Metaphysics ("after the Physics"), develops his peculiar theology of the prime mover, as πρῶτον κινοῦν ἀκίνητον: an independent divine eternal unchanging immaterial substance.[7]

Celestial spheres

Aristotle adopted the geometrical model of Eudoxus of Cnidus, to provide a general explanation of the apparent wandering of the classical planets arising from uniform circular motions of celestial spheres.[8] While the number of spheres in the model itself was subject to change (47 or 55), Aristotle's account of aether, and of potentiality and actuality, required an individual unmoved mover for each sphere.[9]

Final cause and efficient cause

Simplicius argues that the first unmoved mover is a cause not only in the sense of being a final cause—which everyone in his day, as in ours, would accept—but also in the sense of being an efficient cause (1360. 24ff.), and his master Ammonius wrote a whole book defending the thesis (ibid. 1363. 8–10). Simplicius's arguments include citations of Plato's views in the Timaeus—evidence not relevant to the debate unless one happens to believe in the essential harmony of Plato and Aristotle—and inferences from approving remarks which Aristotle makes about the role of Nous in Anaxagoras, which require a good deal of reading between the lines. But he does point out rightly that the unmoved mover fits the definition of an efficient cause—"whence the first source of change or rest" (Phys. II. 3, 194b29–30; Simpl. 1361. 12ff.). The examples which Aristotle adduces do not obviously suggest an application to the first unmoved mover, and it is at least possible that Aristotle originated his fourfold distinction without reference to such an entity. But the real question is whether, given his definition of the efficient cause, it includes the unmoved mover willy-nilly. One curious fact remains: that Aristotle never acknowledges the alleged fact that the unmoved mover is an efficient cause (a problem of which Simplicius is well aware: 1363. 12–14)...[10]

— D. W. Graham, Physics

Despite their apparent function in the celestial model, the unmoved movers were a final cause, not an efficient cause for the movement of the spheres;[11] they were solely a constant inspiration,[12] and even if taken for an efficient cause precisely due to being a final cause,[13] the nature of the explanation is purely teleological.[14]

Aristotle's theology

The unmoved movers, if they were anywhere, were said to fill the outer void, beyond the sphere of fixed stars:

It is clear then that there is neither place, nor void, nor time, outside the heaven. Hence whatever is there, is of such a nature as not to occupy any place, nor does time age it; nor is there any change in any of the things which lie beyond the outermost motion; they continue through their entire duration unalterable and unmodified, living the best and most self sufficient of lives… From [the fulfilment of the whole heaven] derive the being and life which other things, some more or less articulately but other feebly, enjoy."[15]

— Aristotle, De Caelo, I.9, 279 a17–30

The unmoved movers are, themselves, immaterial substance, (separate and individual beings), having neither parts nor magnitude. As such, it would be physically impossible for them to move material objects of any size by pushing, pulling or collision. Because matter is, for Aristotle, a substratum in which a potential to change can be actualized, any and all potentiality must be actualized in a being that is eternal but it must not be still, because continuous activity is essential for all forms of life. This immaterial form of activity must be intellectual in nature and it cannot be contingent upon sensory perception if it is to remain uniform; therefore eternal substance must think only of thinking itself and exist outside the starry sphere, where even the notion of place is undefined for Aristotle. Their influence on lesser beings is purely the result of an "aspiration or desire",[16] and each aetheric celestial sphere emulates one of the unmoved movers, as best it can, by uniform circular motion. The first heaven, the outmost sphere of fixed stars, is moved by a desire to emulate the prime mover (first cause),[17][18] in relation to whom, the subordinate movers suffer an accidental dependency.

Many of Aristotle's contemporaries complained that oblivious, powerless gods are unsatisfactory.[7] Nonetheless, it was a life which Aristotle enthusiastically endorsed as one most enviable and perfect, the unembellished basis of theology. As the whole of nature depends on the inspiration of the eternal unmoved movers, Aristotle was concerned to establish the metaphysical necessity of the perpetual motions of the heavens. It is through the seasonal action of the Sun upon the terrestrial spheres, that the cycles of generation and corruption give rise to all natural motion as efficient cause.[14] The intellect, nous, "or whatever else it be that is thought to rule and lead us by nature, and to have cognizance of what is noble and divine" is the highest activity, according to Aristotle (contemplation or speculative thinking, theōrētikē). It is also the most sustainable, pleasant, self-sufficient activity;[19] something which is aimed at for its own sake. (In contrast to politics and warfare, it does not involve doing things we'd rather not do, but rather something we do at our leisure.) This aim is not strictly human, to achieve it means to live in accordance not with mortal thoughts, but something immortal and divine which is within humans. According to Aristotle, contemplation is the only type of happy activity which it would not be ridiculous to imagine the gods having. In Aristotle's psychology and biology, the intellect is the soul, (see also eudaimonia).

First cause

In book VIII of his Physics,[20] Aristotle examines the notions of change or motion, and attempts to show by a challenging argument, that the mere supposition of a 'before' and an 'after', requires a first principle. He argues that in the beginning, if the cosmos had come to be, its first motion would lack an antecedent state, and as Parmenides said, "nothing comes from nothing". The cosmological argument, later attributed to Aristotle, thereby draws the conclusion that God exists. However, if the cosmos had a beginning, Aristotle argued, it would require an efficient first cause, a notion that Aristotle took to demonstrate a critical flaw.[21][22][23]

But it is a wrong assumption to suppose universally that we have an adequate first principle in virtue of the fact that something always is so … Thus Democritus reduces the causes that explain nature to the fact that things happened in the past in the same way as they happen now: but he does not think fit to seek for a first principle to explain this 'always' … Let this conclude what we have to say in support of our contention that there never was a time when there was not motion, and never will be a time when there will not be motion. (Physics VIII, 2)[24]

The purpose of Aristotle's cosmological argument, that at least one eternal unmoved mover must exist, is to support everyday change.[25]

Of things that exist, substances are the first. But if substances can, then all things can perish... and yet, time and change cannot. Now, the only continuous change is that of place, and the only continuous change of place is circular motion. Therefore, there must be an eternal circular motion and this confirmed by the fixed stars which are moved by the eternal actual substance substance that's purely actual.[26]

In Aristotle's estimation, an explanation without the temporal actuality and potentiality of an infinite locomotive chain is required for an eternal cosmos with neither beginning nor end: an unmoved eternal substance for whom the Primum Mobile[27] turns diurnally and whereby all terrestrial cycles are driven: day and night, the seasons of the year, the transformation of the elements, and the nature of plants and animals.[9]

Substance and change

Aristotle begins by describing substance, of which he says there are three types: the sensible, which is subdivided into the perishable, which belongs to physics, and the eternal, which belongs to "another science". He notes that sensible substance is changeable and that there are several types of change, including quality and quantity, generation and destruction, increase and diminution, alteration, and motion. Change occurs when one given state becomes something contrary to it: that is to say, what exists potentially comes to exist actually. (See Potentiality and actuality.) Therefore, "a thing [can come to be], incidentally, out of that which is not, [and] also all things come to be out of that which is, but is potentially, and is not actually." That by which something is changed is the mover, that which is changed is the matter, and that into which it is changed is the form.

Substance is necessarily composed of different elements. The proof for this is that there are things which are different from each other and that all things are composed of elements. Since elements combine to form composite substances, and because these substances differ from each other, there must be different elements: in other words, "b or a cannot be the same as ba".

Number of movers

Near the end of Metaphysics, Book Λ, Aristotle introduces a surprising question, asking "whether we have to suppose one such [mover] or more than one, and if the latter, how many".[28] Aristotle concludes that the number of all the movers equals the number of separate movements, and we can determine these by considering the mathematical science most akin to philosophy, i.e., astronomy. Although the mathematicians differ on the number of movements, Aristotle considers that the number of celestial spheres would be 47 or 55. Nonetheless, he concludes his Metaphysics, Book Λ, with a quotation from the Iliad: "The rule of many is not good; one ruler let there be."[29][30]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Aristotle, Metaphysics XII, 1072a.
  2. ^ Kai Nielsen, Reason and Practice: A Modern Introduction to Philosophy, Harper & Row, 1971, pp. 170–2.
  3. ^ "Aristotle's Natural Philosophy: Movers and Unmoved Mover". stanford.edu.
  4. ^ Sachs, Joe. "Aristotle: Metaphysics". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  5. ^ Shields, Christopher John (2007). Aristotle (reprint ed.). Taylor & Francis. p. 187. ISBN 978-0-415-28331-1.
  6. ^ Shields, Christopher John (2007). Aristotle. pp. 196, 226.
  7. ^ a b Ross, Sir David; Ackrill, John Lloyd (2004). Aristotle (6th ed., revised ed.). Psychology Press. pp. 188, 190. ISBN 978-0-415-32857-9.
  8. ^ Mendell, Henry (16 September 2009). "Eudoxus of Cnidus: Astronomy and Homocentric Spheres". Vignettes of Ancient Mathematics. Archived from the original on 16 May 2011.
  9. ^ a b Bodnar, Istvan (2010). Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). "Aristotle's Natural Philosophy" (Spring 2010 ed.). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. In Metaphysics 12.8, Aristotle opts for both the uniqueness and the plurality of the unmoved celestial movers. Each celestial sphere possesses the unmoved mover of its own—presumably as the object of its striving, see Metaphysics 12.6—whereas the mover of the outermost celestial sphere, which carries with its diurnal rotation the fixed stars, being the first of the series of unmoved movers also guarantees the unity and uniqueness of the universe.
  10. ^ Graham, D. W. (1999). Physics. Clarendon Aristotle Series. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 179. ISBN 9780198240921. LCCN 98049448.
  11. ^ Humphrey, P. (2007). Metaphysics of Mind: Hylomorphism and Eternality in Aristotle and Hegel. State University of New York at Stony Brook. p. 71. ISBN 9780549806714. The universe has no beginning in time, no temporal first cause, so Aristotle is obviously not seeking an efficient cause in the sense of "what set it all off?" Aristotle's unmoved mover acts as final cause, as the good toward which all things strive. That is, it acts an objects of desire: "The object of desire and the object of thought move without being moved" (Met., 1072a26–27).
  12. ^ Hankinson, R. J. (1997). Cause and Explanation in Ancient Greek Thought (PDF). Oxford University Press. p. 125 (PDF p. 103).
  13. ^ Ross, Sir David; Ackrill, John Lloyd (2004). Aristotle. p. 187.
  14. ^ a b Shields, Christopher John (2007). Aristotle. p. 121.
  15. ^ Aristotle (J. L. Stocks trans.) (7 January 2009). "De Caelo" [On the Heavens]. The Internet Classics Archive. I.9, 279 a17–30.
  16. ^ "Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God", in Macmillan Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1967), Vol. 2, p. 233ff.
  17. ^ Aristotle, Physics VIII 6, 258 b26-259 a9.
  18. ^ Now understood as the Earth's rotation.
  19. ^ Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics X 1177 a20
  20. ^ Aristotle, Physics VIII, 4–6.
  21. ^ Brentano, F.C.; George, R.; Chisholm, R.M. (1978). Aristotle and His World View. University of California Press. p. 56. ISBN 9780520033900. LCCN lc76050245.
  22. ^ Aristotle, De Caelo Book I Chapter 10 280a6.
  23. ^ Aristotle, Physics Book VIII 251–253.
  24. ^ Aristotle; (trans. Hardie, R. P. & Gaye, R. K.) (7 January 2009). "Physics". The Internet Classics Archive.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  25. ^ Shields, Christopher John (2007). Aristotle (reprint ed.). Taylor & Francis. p. 222. ISBN 978-0-415-28331-1.
  26. ^ Ross, Sir David; Ackrill, John Lloyd (2004). Aristotle. p. 186.
  27. ^ The outermost celestial sphere, for Aristotle, the sphere of fixed stars.
  28. ^ Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1073a14–15.
  29. ^ Iliad, ii, 204; quoted in Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1076a5.
  30. ^ Harry A. Wolfson, "The Plurality of Immovable Movers in Aristotle and Averroës," Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, 63 (1958): 233–253.
Agnostic existentialism

Agnostic existentialism is a type of existentialism which makes no claim to know whether there is a "greater picture"; rather, it simply asserts that the greatest truth is that which the individual chooses to act upon. It feels that to know the greater picture, whether there is one or not, is impossible, or impossible so far, or of little value. Like the Christian existentialist, the agnostic existentialist believes existence is subjective.

Argument from a proper basis

The argument from a proper basis is an ontological argument for the existence of God related to fideism. Alvin Plantinga argued that belief in God is a properly basic belief, and so no basis for belief in God is necessary.

Argument from degree

The argument from degrees, also known as the degrees of perfection argument or the henological argument is an argument for the existence of God first proposed by mediaeval Roman Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas as one of the five ways to philosophically argue in favour of God's existence in his Summa Theologica. It is based on ontological and theological notions of perfection. Contemporary Thomist scholars are often in disagreement on the metaphysical justification for this proof.. According to Edward Feser, the metaphysics involved in the argument has more to do with Aristotle than Plato; hence, while the argument presupposes realism about universals and abstract objects, it would be more accurate to say Aquinas is thinking of Aristotelian realism and not Platonic realism per se.

Argument from free will

The argument from free will, also called the paradox of free will or theological fatalism, contends that omniscience and free will are incompatible and that any conception of God that incorporates both properties is therefore inherently contradictory. These arguments are deeply concerned with the implications of predestination.

Argument from love

The Argument from love is an argument for the existence of God.

Argument from miracles

The argument from miracles is an argument for the existence of God that relies on the belief that events witnessed and described as miracles – i.e. as events not explicable by natural or scientific laws – indicate the intervention of the supernatural.

One example of this argument is the Christological argument: the claim that historical evidence proves that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and that this can only be explained if God exists. Another is the claim that many of the Qur'an's prophecies have been fulfilled and that this too can only be explained if God (Allah) exists.

Defenders of the argument include C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton and William of Ockham.

Aristotelian theology

Aristotelian theology and the scholastic view of God have been influential in Western intellectual history.

Creator in Buddhism

Buddhist thought consistently rejects the notion of a creator deity. It teaches the concept of gods, heavens and rebirths in its Saṃsāra doctrine, but it considers none of these gods as a creator. Buddhism posits that mundane deities such as Mahabrahma are misconstrued to be a creator. Buddhist ontology follows the doctrine of Dependent Origination, whereby all phenomena arise in dependence on other phenomena, hence no primal unmoved mover could be acknowledged or discerned.

Dynamics of the celestial spheres

Ancient, medieval and Renaissance astronomers and philosophers developed many different theories about the dynamics of the celestial spheres. They explained the motions of the various nested spheres in terms of the materials of which they were made, external movers such as celestial intelligences, and internal movers such as motive souls or impressed forces. Most of these models were qualitative, although a few of them incorporated quantitative analyses that related speed, motive force and resistance.


Egotheism is deification of the self, or the view that the idea of God is nothing more than a conception of the self. The latter position presupposes the impossibility of divine revelation. As such, it is a denial of the validity of faith and most theistic traditions, except for deism.

Satanism teaches self-deification. A version of egotheism exists in the pagan cult of Antinous, where it is known as homotheosis.

Five Ways (Aquinas)

The quinque viae (Latin "Five Ways") (sometimes called "five proofs") are five logical arguments regarding the existence of God summarized by the 13th-century Catholic philosopher and theologian St. Thomas Aquinas in his book Summa Theologica. They are:

the argument from metaphysical motion;

the argument from efficient causation;

the argument from contingency;

the argument from degrees of being;

the argument from final causality ("teleological argument").Aquinas expands the first of these – God as the "unmoved mover" – in his Summa Contra Gentiles.


Kathenotheism is a term coined by the philologist Max Müller to mean the worship of one god at a time. It is closely related to henotheism, the worship of one god while not rejecting the existence of other gods. Müller coined the term in reference to the Vedas, where he explained each deity is treated as supreme in turn.


Mover or movers may refer to:

Motion (parliamentary procedure), in parliamentary procedure, the person who introduces a motion

Moving company, a service which helps with packing, moving and storage

People mover, a type of mass-transit

Prime mover (disambiguation)

Unmoved mover, a philosophical concept of that which moves all but is unmoved by everything else

Natural religion

Natural religion most frequently means the "religion of nature", in which God, the soul, spirits, and all objects of the supernatural are considered as part of nature and not separate from it. Conversely, it is also used in philosophy, specifically Roman Catholic philosophy, to describe some aspects of religion that are said to be knowable apart from divine revelation through logic and reason alone (see natural theology and Deism), for example, the existence of the unmoved Mover, the first cause of the universe.

Most authors consider natural religion as not only the foundation of monotheistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam but also distinct from them. According to some authors, aspects of natural religion are found universally among all peoples, often in such forms of shamanism and animism. They are still practiced in many parts of the world. The religions of Native American societies for example are considered as possessing some aspects of natural religion.

Sublunary sphere

In Aristotelian physics and Greek astronomy, the sublunary sphere is the region of the geocentric cosmos below the Moon, consisting of the four classical elements: earth, water, air, and fire.The sublunary sphere was the realm of changing nature. Beginning with the Moon, up to the limits of the universe, everything (to classical astronomy) was permanent, regular and unchanging – the region of aether where the planets and stars are located. Only in the sublunary sphere did the powers of physics hold sway.

Summum bonum

Summum bonum is a Latin expression meaning "the highest good", which was introduced by the Roman philosopher Cicero, to correspond to the Idea of the Good in ancient Greek philosophy. The summum bonum is generally thought of as being an end in itself, and at the same time containing all other goods.

The term was used in medieval philosophy. In the Thomist synthesis of Aristotelianism and Christianity, the highest good is usually defined as the life of the righteous and/or the life led in communion with God and according to God's precepts. In Kantianism, it was used to describe the ultimate importance, the singular and overriding end which human beings ought to pursue.

Theological noncognitivism

Theological noncognitivism is the position that religious language – specifically, words such as "God" – are not cognitively meaningful. It is sometimes considered synonymous with ignosticism.

Transcendental argument for the existence of God

The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God (TAG) is the argument that attempts to prove the existence of God by arguing that logic, morals, and science ultimately presuppose a supreme being and that God must therefore be the source of logic and morals.A version was formulated by Immanuel Kant in his 1763 work The Only Possible Argument in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God, and most contemporary formulations of the transcendental argument have been developed within the framework of Christian presuppositional apologetics.


The unmanifested is Brahman, the Absolute, the pure and formless ground of being from which creation and manifestation arise. As such, the unmanifested is free from change, the unmoved mover. It also, necessarily, cannot be explained or comprehended in terms of any manifest reality.

Some schools of belief hold that the manifest and unmanifested are part of the same reality (e.g. pantheism), others believe that the Absolute is the only reality with all manifestation being illusory (e.g. acosmism), a third belief posits that the one God interpenetrates every part of nature, and timelessly extends beyond as well (e.g. panentheism).

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