The divinity of an unmoved mover

Why call an unmoved mover God?

1.) The historical reason. When Thomas wrote the First Way he could appeal to the massive authority of Aristotle and his Arab commentators. If Aristotle thought that an unmoved mover was God, this is all one had to say. We have no single authority with Aristotle’s authority and so this point is harder to understand, but chances are if you had an argument nowadays that even hinted at the existence of an “Intelligent designer” almost everyone would assume that you were talking about God.

2.) The historical state of physics. The physics of Thomas’s time was a bit clearer that physics studied mobile things as such, and so if you found some mover that wasn’t mobile it was ipso facto supernatural. While there are supernatural movers other than God, angels are defined as created intelligences; and it’s pretty clear that the human soul can’t account for the procession of the equinoxes or the phases of the Moon.

Thomas’s physics also had a much clearer, if inaccurate, account of how the universe was universing in a set of nested diurnal movements. Obviously anyone that could point to the first mover of a univsersing universe and call it God. As late as the 1930’s this view of the universe was still plausible, but physics and cosmology since then has either been fascinated by Pascal’s dizzying terror of infinite spaces or playing with models that aren’t fleshed out or determinate enough to apply metaphysics to. Still, all accounts I’ve read of cosmic inflation make it comprised of movers in motion, and if this is right then it too would reduce to the causality of an unmoved mover. Whatever physics ends up saying about the origin of the universe will inevitably make it an object of the First Way since all conserved quantities are movers in motion, and physical explanations bottom out in the causality of a conserved quantity

3.) The hierarchy of energia. While we no longer have a universe with the spatially-arranged hierarchies of the Thirteenth Century (Earth within Sun within planets within celestial sphere) we still have Thomas’s hierarchy of actualities, the highest of which is, as all Thomists say daily on rosary beads, the actus essendi or esse. Since the first way understands motion precisely as the conferal of actualities, this takes place within a metaphysical hierarchy where the highest such is creation. And a creator is still what all call God.

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