God as the Unmoving MoverJune 26, 2021
In Aristotle’s understanding of being, all beings are ordered from bottom to top according to the degree of actualization of the form: At the bottom, there are the materials, that is, inanimate beings, in which the form is little actualized.
Just above it stands the realm of plants and animals, where the form becomes more actual and thus the first forms of spirituality are formed, and above it, human individuals, where the form is realized at an advanced level in higher structures such as thinking. At the top of this hierarchy of existence is God, who does not have the slightest materiality in himself. While describing the state of existence of God, Aristotle says that it is “pure form”, “pure actuality”. In other words, unlike other beings, God does not need to complete himself, to actualize, to perfect himself. Because it is already completely complete, it is a completely actualized form. There is not the slightest secret in it. It has been stated above that Aristotle sees movement or becoming as a natural tendency towards the realization of form, its actualization, that is, towards perfection and completion. There is never any need for such movement and becoming in God, because he is already a complete actualization. It is pure form without any potentiality or materiality. Therefore, God is also an inactive being.
According to Aristotle, God is pure form, pure actuality, which has no materiality and is therefore not subject to motion, time or space. It is the fully actualized, complete, perfect form. As such, it is a self-directed reflection and is the prime mover as the cause of all other things’ movements.
On the other hand, Aristotle saw pure matter as eternal, that is, without beginning, just like pure form, and thought that wherever there is matter, there will be movement by necessity. Because the substance is never complete, it is incomplete, it tends to perfect its form. This keeps it always on the move. If both matter and form are eternal, and their coexistence always necessitates a movement, neither matter nor the latent form in matter can be a cause of action. In this case, a mover with no motion would be needed. If there were no motionless mover, there would never be motion. Because matter is beginningless and always together with motion. However, there is no movement without a beginning. So the first mover must be motionless. On the other hand, if the first mover is immobile, there cannot be any materiality in it, because wherever there is matter, motion is necessarily found, because we have stated that matter is incomplete and has a natural tendency to completeness. In this case, God is the first mover, the first mover (proton kinein), which does not carry the slightest materiality and does not move (Zeller, 2008: 250-251).
In Aristotle’s understanding of existence, both form and pure matter are eternal, that is, God is not the creator of both. But since form is in itself the absolute form and form is reality, being itself, God is absolute reality, absolute being. It indicates a complete form, being. With this feature, God is like an ultimate goal for all other beings in the universe. Because all beings are oriented towards the purpose of realizing their essence, their form, and God becomes the ultimate goal as a complete actualization, in which the essence, the form, is absolutely realized. Aristotle sometimes refers to God as “pure thought” or “pure mind” while expressing his state of being. It is such a thought that the subject of its thought is no other than itself. As a perfect thought directed to himself, God is in a state of absolute bliss, peace, because he needs nothing other than himself to exist, he has no shortcomings.
With these attributes, God completes Aristotle’s understanding of existence. He did not do anything in the universe by chance or in vain. All the elements of the universe, and itself as a whole, are unfolding in harmony with its God-determined purpose. Aristotle made this situation a legality called “entelecheia”. Every object, every item internally carries a latent form and its purpose is to realize and actualize this form (Sahakian, 1997: 70). This is a divine legality that operates all over the universe and makes Aristotle’s understanding of existence a teleological (target) view.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook