What is Aristotle’s conception of God

What is Aristotle ‘s construct of God in the ‘Metaphysics ‘ ?

In theMetaphysicss,[ 1 ] Aristotle purposes to reply the cardinal inquiries associated with being. The focal point is non on the peculiar qualities or facets of phenomena that really exist, but the really nature of being itself and its implicit in rules. When sing Aristotle’s construct of God within this work, it is imperative to understand that whilst it has had an tremendous influence on subsequent theological and philosophical impressions of a supreme being, it is non a cosmogonic or ontological statement. Aristotle does non seek to turn out the being of God. Neither does he supply any statements that are creationist in character. Alternatively, God is typified as a cardinal rule within the construction of world and in order to to the full understand this, one must see God in relation to the overall strategy of theMetaphysicss.

Within this essay, I shall concentrate specifically on chapters six and seven of book lambda ( book 12 ) within theMetaphysicss.[ 2 ] It is in this subdivision that the construct of God is presented, though to understand Aristotle to the full I will on occasion hold to do necessary resort to other parts of the work, peculiarly chapters nine and ten of the same book. I will non do mention to chapter eight as it is instead vague and adds small to the treatment. I shall split my treatment into two parts ; foremost I shall explicate how Aristotle conceives God in relation to his theory of world and secondly, I shall discourse the description he gives of such a being. The latter portion will include Aristotle’s treatment of what he perceives God’s existent nature to be and the two subdivisions taken together should give us a clear thought of the construct that is being described.

In order to see Aristotle’s construct of God in relation to his description of world it must be remembered that theMetaphysicssconstitutes a rejection of Plato’s theory of signifiers. This is the impression that everything in the material universe is capable to alter and so can non state us anything about the existent nature of world. Reason is the tool we must rely upon as what we perceive with our senses is nil more than a subdued shadow of the implicit in truth. Therefore, a circle in the material universe is merely a shady contemplation of the thought of a circle as it is capable to alter and perishable. It is the construct or thought of something that is existent, non its stuff manifestation. Aristotle rejects this statement and alternatively follow an empirical attack to understanding world ; if you want to understand what something is, travel out and detect it. However, what he does follow from Plato is the thought that alteration is a cardinal facet of the universe and it is his effort to accommodate this with the existent ability human existences have to both observe and think about it that is the key to understanding where God fits in with Aristotle’s overall strategy. If everything was capable to alter so we could ne’er be certain of the world’s continued being. Aristotle argues that there must be something that persists throughout this perceived changing because, ‘if they [ substances ] are all destructible, so all things are destructible.’ [ 3 ] He demonstrates that this can merely take to absurdness by saying that some things in and of themselves, such as motion or clip, must be changeless in order for alteration to be perceivable. Change itself can non alter, but is a changeless fact about the universe. This apparently evident contradiction is a necessary one as ‘it is non even possible for there to be an earlier or subsequently if clip does non exist’ . [ 4 ] In other words, things change in clip, but clip itself must be and stay changeless for constructs such as earlier or later to do any sense. If this thought is extended to all the alteration that takes topographic point in the Universe though, a quandary emerges and it is Aristotle’s coping with this that leads to his construct of God. Aristotle points out that if all motion and alteration is caused by something prior to it ( as it needfully is ) , so the Universe itself could ne’er come into being due to the infinite reasoning backward that is an unfortunate effect of a world that is based upon such rules. Aristotle argues that there must be ‘something that moves without being moved’ . [ 5 ] This is Aristotle’s construct of God as the premier mover or the unaffected mover ; the supreme entity that sets everything in gesture and keeps it in gesture. It is the one substance in world that is ageless and non capable to alter. With this construct it is possible to gestate of a world that is both capable to changeless alteration but besides possesses some stableness that in bend, enables a sentient being to comprehend the alteration clearly. Therefore, the evident contradiction that stems from such a province of personal businesss is laid to rest.

By presenting the construct of the premier mover, Aristotle has given God a unafraid topographic point in his thoughts associating to the construction of world. Here though, his description of God is non yet procure as he needs to warrant how such a premier mover can put all things in gesture but non be moved himself. The trouble is basically causal. It would look that without the premier mover we have an infinite reasoning backward and with the premier mover, a sudden terminal to the causal concatenation of events that needs farther explication. This job takes us to the 2nd facet of this treatment, which focuses on Aristotle’s thought of what such a premier mover must be and what life must be like for such an entity. Aristotle’s statement here is notoriously opaque, though can be elucidated with a small work.

Aristotle argues that the premier mover causes alteration but is non capable to it himself by being an object of desire for everything in world that does so alter. This appears to be a instead unusual response to those that would object to Aristotle’s construct of God, but in order to understand what is meant here it is necessary to see certain ethical issues in relation to this description. Aristotle argues that when a human being desires something it becomes a portion of his or her thought procedures ; an object of idea. This thought and wanting needfully affects the individual and so ‘the object of desire and the object of idea produce movement.’ [ 6 ] Though, whilst alteration is visited upon the individual by their object of desire, the object remains inert in relation to this individual. The object inspires motion without itself being moved. If the premier mover is the object of desire for the whole Universe, so he can animate motion without himself being moved. Not merely is God an object of desire for everything that exists, but must bask the most desirable life conceivable. For Aristotle, the highest or most desirable signifier of life is one devoted to believe and contemplation so it needfully follows, if we extend this logically, that the highest or most desirable signifier of brooding life is one that is devoted to believing approximately thought itself. After all, it is possible to believe about unworthy or transeunt things, but by believing approximately thought itself, the self-respect of the premier mover is non compromised.

Aristotle’s statement here could take to another contradiction though. If God is believing about thought, so will non believe besides be an object of desire and so do him to be moved? He would no longer be the premier mover if this was the instance. Aristotle avoids this possibility by reasoning that all believing about thought is needfully ageless and can non be capable to division in the manner that ordinary human idea is. Human thought is needfully capable to alter and it is this that affects and alterations us. It is true ill-defined precisely what Aristotle is acquiring at here, but it appears to be something along the lines of the followers: when the content of idea is thought itself, instead than some other facet of world, it does non do alteration because the content of the idea in inquiry can non alter. The object of desire is non something that lies outside of the mind but is a necessary portion of who or what he is. It is non possible for something to alter itself without some external cause and so a contradiction arises if believing about thought could impact such alteration because the content of the idea is non external to the mind. In short, Aristotle is proposing that the premier mover’s being is based around an ageless signifier of self-reflection that human existences can hardly gestate of.

These two facets taken together, the premier mover and the highest object of desire for everything that exists in world, give the fullest construct of God harmonizing to Aristotle. The former must be understood in footings of God being a necessary portion of world. Aristotle does non try to turn out God’s being, but sees the premier mover as being necessary in order to explicate the contradictions that arise between alteration and stableness and the ability of human existences to comprehend both. Thus God is introduced as a natural extension of Aristotle’s question into the cardinal nature of world. The premier mover is needed because, ‘if there are no other entities besides sensibles, so we lose rule, order, coevals and even the heavenly bodies.’ [ 7 ] For Aristotle, we need God in order to do sense of anything. Using the armed forces as an analogy, he states that ‘in an ground forces, goodness resides both in the organisation and in the general’ , [ 8 ] but it must be remembered that the organisation exists because of the general. The latter characteristic, God as the highest object of desire, is besides an extension of this question, but in order to develop this thought further it was necessary for Aristotle to give us some qualitative facets associating to what such an entity must be and what sort of life he must populate. It is here, where both the eternal and intelligent nature of God are outlined. Aristotle does associate this treatment back to the premier mover though in order to show how God can non be changed. This is through the impression that ‘the thought of believing be for all eternity.’ [ 9 ] This facet of God as both a rational and as an ageless being has influenced both many philosophers and theologists later.


Aristotle,The Metaphysicss( trans. Lawson-Tancred, H ) Penguin Books ( 2004 )