News:

[A]nyone...striving after his advancement...is...given to spiritual reading. —St. Athanasius

Main Menu

Confused by The First Way

Started by Aristotle, June 17, 2022, 06:37:02 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 32 Guests are viewing this topic.

Aristotle

The First Way has been difficult for me to grasp but not out of a disagreement of the premises but more so the logic that gets us to the conclusion.

The argument states that there is motion in the world, that change is the actualization of potentiality, and that only whatever is in actuality may actualize what is in potentiality. All of these I perfectly agree with, granting us the first conclusion that whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. But then St.Thomas Aquinas concludes from this that whatever sets something in motion must itself either be moved or immovable, but this seems to neglect the viable alternative of a mover simply remaining unmoved for the duration of its moving something else.

To give an example (which I hope doesn't reflect a deep ignorance as to the subjects referred) when one mows the lawn they move the lawn mower throughout the duration of the mowing process until all the grass has been trimmed. Thus it requires a mover, and the body fulfills this role. But the body too is in motion, therefore it requires a mover as well, and to this I might say that the will fulfills. But the will itself is not in motion, for if it were then it would will differently and thus would not commit to the duration of mowing. But insofar as it does commit to the duration of mowing, it certainly seems to me that in some sense the will is unmoved and thus we have reached a kind of terminus of the movers.

That so, however, it seems to me that the conclusion of St.Thomas Aquinas for a necessary immobile mover no longer follows. Which is obviously problematic because I wouldn't pretend for a second that I'm smarter than the Angelic Doctor, so I clearly either reasoned poorly somewhere or missed his point entirely and I just can't see it. Either way, some feedback would be great.

Geremia

In your example, didn't the will move/change, from not-willing-to-mow-the-lawn to willing-to-mow-the-lawn?

Aristotle

Quote from: Geremia on June 17, 2022, 09:15:10 AMIn your example, didn't the will move/change, from not-willing-to-mow-the-lawn to willing-to-mow-the-lawn?

It surely must have prior to the mowing of the lawn. But I'm not sure if that is of much relevancy given that during the actual mowing process there is no motion to the will. It remains constant in its object whilst being the concurrent actualizer of the motion of the body and lawn mower. As such, if we were to evaluate the series of movers in the scenario while it took place we would come to a terminus of movers which itself is not immobile. And it seems to me that even if we were to say "the will is constantly actualized toward the willing of cutting the grass because the intellect has judged it bad that the grass be long" then the terminus is either the intellect or the grass. Neither of which is immobile, but instead very much susceptible to change.

Geremia

#3
Quote from: Aristotle on June 17, 2022, 09:41:12 AMBut I'm not sure if that is of much relevancy given that during the actual mowing process there is no motion to the will
But the point is that something besides the will was required to move/change the will from not-willing-to-mow-the-lawn to willing-to-mow-the-lawn. Whether the will changes or not while moving the lawn isn't relevant to the argument.

St. Thomas isn't Heraclitean; he doesn't believe everything besides God changes (though everything besides Him can change); he knows there are stable/unchanging beings besides God; only the Unmoved Mover cannot change.

Aristotle

#4
Quote from: Geremia on June 17, 2022, 09:57:50 AMBut the point is that something besides the will was required to move/change the will from not-willing-to-mow-the-lawn to willing-to-mow-the-lawn. Whether the will changes or not while moving the lawn isn't relevant to the argument.

What is it that moves the will toward its object in this example? Surely I would think the intellect, and the intellect on the basis of the state of the grass. But even when we get here we conclude in a mover which is unmoved yet is still movable. That is to say, the grass moves the intellect, which moves the will, which moves the body, which moves the mower.

But does this not seem to confirm my point in the OP? That is, that St. Thomas Aquinas (at least in his portrayal of the argument in Summa Theologica I q. 2 a. 3 co. and Summa Contra Gentiles lib. 1 cap. 13) based his argument on premises which don't exactly conclude in an immovable mover which is the terminus of the per se causal series of movers?

For, just because all that is in motion requires a mover to explain its motion, and that a per se causal series of movers must terminate in a first mover which itself is the explanation of the motion of the subsequent movers, doesn't seem to necessitate in a prime mover which is itself immobile. It could be, as I'm attempting to explain, merely unmoved.


Geremia

Quote from: Aristotle on June 17, 2022, 10:31:41 AMa mover which is unmoved yet is still movable.
St. Thomas's argument doesn't require proving the existence of an unmoving mover, but of an unmovable mover.

Aristotle

Quote from: Geremia on June 17, 2022, 03:46:03 PMSt. Thomas's argument doesn't require proving the existence of an unmoving mover, but of an unmovable mover.

That's certainly the claim, but I hardly see how that follows given the premises. Could you illuminate where my rationale goes off track? And by that I mean, can you show me how the premises necessitate a per se causal series of movers to terminate in a prime immobile mover?

Geremia

Quote from: Geremia on June 17, 2022, 03:46:03 PMSt. Thomas's argument doesn't require proving the existence of an unmoving mover, but of an unmovable mover.
An unmovable/unchangeable being is something with 100% actuality and 0% potentiality.

It seems you think the argument doesn't work because there can be unchanging/unmoving changers/movers in the causal chain.

Geremia

Quote from: Aristotle on June 17, 2022, 10:31:41 AMSt. Thomas Aquinas (at least in his portrayal of the argument in Summa Theologica I q. 2 a. 3 co. and Summa Contra Gentiles lib. 1 cap. 13) based his argument on premises which don't exactly conclude in an immovable mover which is the terminus of the per se causal series of movers?

For, just because all that is in motion requires a mover to explain its motion, and that a per se causal series of movers must terminate in a first mover which itself is the explanation of the motion of the subsequent movers, doesn't seem to necessitate in a prime mover which is itself immobile. It could be, as I'm attempting to explain, merely unmoved.
After arguing there must be a first mover, St. Thomas says one cannot, without further proof, conclude that the first mover is unmovable:
Summa Contra Gentiles lib. 1 cap. 13:
Quote[20] It remains, therefore, that we must posit some first mover that is not moved by any exterior moving cause.
[21] Granted this conclusion—namely, that there is a first mover that is not moved by an exterior moving cause—it yet does not follow that this mover is absolutely unmoved. [...]

Aristotle

#9
Quote from: Geremia on June 18, 2022, 07:30:41 AMAn unmovable/unchangeable being is something with 100% actuality and 0% potentiality.
I agree one hundred percent.
Quote from: Geremia on June 18, 2022, 07:30:41 AMIt seems you think the argument doesn't work because there can be unchanging/unmoving changers/movers in the causal chain.
Precisely, because if a mover is not itself in motion then it must therefore be the terminus of a per se causal chain (for it move all in the chain, but is not itself moved, thus there is nothing previous in the chain). That be so, however, it is difficult for one to take this and then jump to the conclusion that it must be immobile, which is necessary so that we may arrive at our Unmoved Mover.
Quote from: Geremia on June 19, 2022, 04:15:29 PMAfter arguing there must be a first mover, St. Thomas says one cannot, without further proof, conclude that the first mover is unmovable:
Summa Contra Gentiles lib. 1 cap. 13:
Exactly, this is correct it seems. Here is my trouble with the Saint's response to this fact, however. He states that there are only two possibilities for this prime mover - that it be immobile, or that it be self moving. But even here the (what seems to me) viable possibility of merely being unmoved is not considered. And as such, although the Saint proves that the second option must be eliminated as the terminus, that does not seem to necessitate that we follow him in saying that the prime mover must be unmovable. Here is the passage I refer to (Summa Contra Gentiles Book 1, Chapter 13, 21):
QuoteThe first mover can be absolutely unmoved. If so, we have the conclusion we are seeking: there is a first unmoved mover. On the other hand, the first mover can be self-moved.

Aristotle

#10
It seems to me the Saint is operating off the assumption that whatever is not immobile must therefore be in motion, and from this it only makes sense that the prime mover must of necessity be not merely unmoved, but truly immovable. Where he arrives at this conclusion I have yet to discover. Though it could be a fragment of Aristotle's cosmological philosophy, as he believed time was without a beginning or end and thus motion also was without beginning or end, and perhaps therefore that all things which can be in motion are in motion. Alternatively, there could be another explanation somewhere in the physics, though I have yet to explore the whole of that work yet. As a result, I came here to see if it could be explained to me why whatever is not in motion must be immobile.

Geremia

#11
Quote from: Aristotle on June 20, 2022, 08:10:30 AMif movers are not themselves in motion [at the moment they are moving others] then they must therefore be the terminus of the per se causal chain
Why?

Geremia

Quote from: Aristotle on June 20, 2022, 08:21:16 AMIt seems to me the Saint is operating off the assumption that whatever is not immobile must therefore be in motion,
Where's he say that?
Quote from: Aristotle on June 20, 2022, 08:21:16 AMand from this it only makes sense that the prime mover must of necessity be not merely unmoved, but truly immovable. Where he arrives at this conclusion I have yet to discover.
He doesn't. He has to prove that, as I showed in the SCG quote above.
Quote from: Aristotle on June 20, 2022, 08:21:16 AMall things which can be in motion are in motion
Where's he say that?

Aristotle

Quote from: Geremia on June 20, 2022, 11:46:34 AMWhy?
Because if a being is undergoing change it follows by necessity that it is due to its being actualized. And as we both seem to agree, whatever is moved must be moved by another; whatever is actualized may only be actualized by that which is already in actuality. Therefore, if some B is changing some A, yet B itself is changing, it follows that there must be some C which is the source of such change. Conversely however, if said B were changing A while itself undergoing no change it follows that there is no member of the series prior to B, for if there were it would imply that B is changing. This is why I stated that if there was a member of a per se causal series which itself is unchanging it follows that it must therefore by the prime mover - or terminus - of such a series.
Quote from: Geremia on June 20, 2022, 11:50:38 AMWhere's he say that?
As far as I'm aware he makes no explicit judgment. Despite this, I find it difficult not to conclude that this was what he believed given how he argues The First Way (i.e. he constantly neglects the possibility that a per se causal series may terminate in a prime mover which itself is capable of change yet is merely unchanging). Now I'm more than aware of the fact that St.Thomas Aquinas was a genius who took very good care to not fall into conclusions without considering seemingly viable alternative explanations, which is why I am at the conclusion that the only way he could have left out the possibility I present (that prime movers need not be immobile) is if he believed it to be inviable. But this being so, given that the possibility I present rests on the assumption that some things may be unchanging yet still changeable, it follows that St.Thomas Aquinas believed that no things can be unchanging unless they are unchangeable.
Quote from: Geremia on June 20, 2022, 11:50:38 AMHe doesn't. He has to prove that, as I showed in the SCG quote above.
If I am not mistaken, this response I gave earlier supports my assertion that he believed it evident that the prime mover must either be immobile or self moving, neither of which encompasses the possibility of being merely unmoved yet movable.
Quote from: Aristotle on June 20, 2022, 08:10:30 AM(Summa Contra Gentiles Book 1, Chapter 13, 21):
QuoteThe first mover can be absolutely unmoved. If so, we have the conclusion we are seeking: there is a first unmoved mover. On the other hand, the first mover can be self-moved.

Quote from: Geremia on June 20, 2022, 11:50:38 AMWhere's he say that?
If he does say that, I would like to know. If he doesn't, then for the reasons I've stated above I must confess that the Saint was not careful in his assessment of The First Way and that he blundered quite poorly. Being a Thomistic Aristotelian myself, however, and personally fond of the Good Doctor and his work, I find the second possibility very repulsive. 

Aristotle

For the sake of not losing focus, I would like to reiterate my central criticism against The First Way and why I believe it fails by first illustrating the argument.

1. We live in a world of change
2. Change is the actualization of potentiality
3. Whatever is being actualized must be actualized by that which is already actual
4. Thus, whatever is undergoing change must be changed by the power of another
5. A per se causal series cannot recede into infinity, but instead must have a first member
6. If this first member is undergoing change, then it can only be because of another and is therefore not first.
7. Therefore, the first member must not be undergoing change.

All of this I agree with whole heartedly. But I simply do not see how the premises reach the conclusion:
8. Therefore, there must be a prime, immobile mover who we call God.

For there simply is no premise which demands we consider that which is not undergoing change as immobile.

Geremia

Quote from: Aristotle on June 20, 2022, 12:55:16 PM
Quote from: Geremia on June 20, 2022, 11:50:38 AM
Quote from: Aristotle on June 20, 2022, 08:21:16 AMall things which can be in motion are in motion
Where's he say that?
If he does say that, I would like to know.
If St. Thomas thought all changeable things are in motion, he'd be a Heraclitean; but St. Thomas admits stable, unchanging beings.
Do you mean to say: "all things which can be in motion will be or have been in motion" at some point?

Aristotle

Quote from: Geremia on June 20, 2022, 02:30:49 PMIf St. Thomas thought all changeable things are in motion, he'd be a Heraclitean; but St. Thomas admits stable, unchanging beings.
That is odd, isn't it? A source of confusion this has been for me. I suppose one could say that whatever is not naturally in actuality (that's to say, that their existence is not explicable by their essence) must be actualized here and now by another in a per se causal series. And this of course would reduce to God, for only God is in actuality naturally (due to His essence and existence being one and the same). In this sense, everything other than God really is undergoing change (because it's potentiality for existence is constantly being actualized by God), but - although that's a great argument in its own right - I have a hard time believing that was what Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas were arguing in The First Way. Mostly because that would mean the Unmoved Mover is the efficient cause of all being, but (from my understanding) Aristotle didn't believe that to be the case (instead seeing Him as the final cause of all being), and also because at this point the argument really becomes a rehash of the argument from the divide between essence and existence.

Quote from: Geremia on June 20, 2022, 02:30:49 PMDo you mean to say: "all things which can be in motion will be or have been in motion" at some point?
What I'm saying is more radical. That in order to accept the First Way argument one has to postulate that all that is capable of motion/change is in motion/change in some way, shape, or form.

Geremia

Quote from: Aristotle on June 20, 2022, 03:49:32 PMin order to accept the First Way argument one has to postulate that all that is capable of motion/change is in motion/change in some way
Why? So St. Thomas should'nt've written (Summa Theologica I q. 2 a. 3 co.): "It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some [not all] things are in motion." ("Certum est enim, et sensu constat, aliqua moveri in hoc mundo.")?

Also, St. Thomas does say (Summa Theologica I q. 2 a. 3 co.): "a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act." ("movet...aliquid secundum quod est actu."), but I don't think he means that everything that has actuality moves.

Aristotle

#18
Quote from: Geremia on June 20, 2022, 08:53:09 PMWhy?
My answer lies in this previous response:
Quote from: Aristotle on June 20, 2022, 01:09:49 PM1. We live in a world of change
2. Change is the actualization of potentiality
3. Whatever is being actualized must be actualized by that which is already actual
4. Thus, whatever is undergoing change must be changed by the power of another
5. A per se causal series cannot recede into infinity, but instead must have a first member
6. If this first member is undergoing change, then it can only be because of another and is therefore not first.
7. Therefore, the first member must not be undergoing change.
The first member of a per se causal series is unchanging, as we see, but we may ask the question as to whether it is unchanging yet changeable or unchanging and unchangeable. Notice how the premises do not give us any reason to favor one of these possibilities over the other. Nothing explicitly demands that a prime mover must be immobile (an attribute which is necessary for one to be actus purus), only that the prime mover be unchanging.

But St. Thomas Aquinas very confidently exclaims that the First Way demonstrates the necessity of prime movers being immobile rather than merely unmoved. This must mean that he rejects the possibility that something can be both unchanging yet changeable, because if he did believe this to be possible then it would follow that we have not deduced the necessary existence of our Immobile Mover. One could rightfully quip "surely, as long as it is possible that prime movers are merely unchanging yet changeable rather than being both unchanging and unchangeable, it could very much be the case that all prime movers are of the former type and not of the latter type, therefore suggesting that an Immobile Mover is not necessary".

Quote from: Geremia on June 20, 2022, 08:53:09 PMSo St. Thomas should'nt've written (Summa Theologica I q. 2 a. 3 co.): "It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some [not all] things are in motion." ("Certum est enim, et sensu constat, aliqua moveri in hoc mundo.")?
Perhaps that is the case. I'm only a student, however, and can't speak for what the teacher should or shouldn't have said because that would imply I understand his intentions, but that I do not understand them is precisely why I'm troubled. Though, from my estimate, and from what I have argued, it certainly seems as though it may have been better to say that all in the world is in motion, at every moment, without rest.

Quote from: Geremia on June 20, 2022, 08:53:09 PMAlso, St. Thomas does say (Summa Theologica I q. 2 a. 3 co.): "a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act." ("movet...aliquid secundum quod est actu."), but I don't think he means that everything that has actuality moves.
I don't think so either, I concur, otherwise Our Lord would be in motion too which is patently impossible. Though, perhaps what the Saint alludes to is the fact that in all which merely participates in actuality there is motion - precisely insofar as motion is the actualization of potentiality - because their actualities are granted to them moment per moment by God. I think Edward Feser spells it out well enough in his Aristotelian argument for God. Though my problem with this is mentioned in an earlier post:

Quote from: Aristotle on June 20, 2022, 03:49:32 PMthat would mean the Unmoved Mover is the efficient cause of all being, but (from my understanding) Aristotle didn't believe that to be the case (instead seeing Him as the final cause of all being), and also because at this point the argument really becomes a rehash of the argument from the divide between essence and existence.

Geremia

Quote from: Aristotle on June 21, 2022, 05:45:22 AMbut we may ask the question as to whether it is unchanging yet changeable or unchanging and unchangeable.
Quote from: Aristotle on June 20, 2022, 08:10:30 AMHe states [in Summa Contra Gentiles lib. 1 cap. 13 n. 21] that there are only two possibilities for this prime mover - that it be immobile, or that it be self moving. But even here the (what seems to me) viable possibility of [the first mover] merely being unmoved [while moving others] is not considered.
Unchanging changeable being ≠ self-moved being?