16 May 2006

The Source of an Eternal Movement

Here is how Broadie argues that the Prime Mover has to be an intellect:

The Prime Mover is the source of an eternal (aidios) movement, which means, I think, not that the Mover eternally produces movement, but that what the Mover produces is a movement essentially eternal and all-containing in time and space. This (or something producing this) is the Prime Mover's end, comprehensive and indivisible. But something like this could not be an end unless it were an end for an intellect; it has to be understood.
This seems weak: Suppose that what the Prime Mover does is unhindered--that it is impossible that it be hindered, since nothing could ever hinder or impede it. Won't that guarantee the eternity of this motion, whether the Prime Mover understands it or not? Or, if there were something about the Prime Mover that could make its movement fail, then surely its understanding, or its aiming at, its movement as eternal would not itself make any difference.

One might add that there are no grounds in the text for ascribing this consideration to Aristotle.
Broadie gives a second argument:
...it cannot be by accident that the effect of the primary rotation pervades the entire universe, not only contributing to the motions of the inner spheres, but thereby eventually providing the ongoing conditions (though not the particular structures and forms) of all that takes place in the sublunar domain. The Prime Mover is not the soul of the world, if by this we mean a single principle that steers all things so that the life of all things is its one life. Rather, it is a spirit that makes possible the generations of many independently natured substances through infinite time. But such a general end could not be an end except to one capable of grasping in intellectually. The analogy of the military commander in Lambda 10 (1075a11ff.) makes the point. A commander sets the framework for operations; he does not expressly dictate the detail that unfolds within the field secured by his influence. The Prime Mover of Lambda need not and probably cannot be omniscient. But it does not follow that the cosmos is something not meant by the Mover--whether because he is lost in pure contemplation or because he is only a rudimentary impulse, corporeal or psychic, that issues in circular motion.
These reasons seem relevant largely to deciding the scope of a Divine Intellect, not to deciding whether a First Cause is an intellect at all.

Grant that, if the Prime Mover is an intellect, then we should say that the cosmos is meant by it, in the sense that its has as ite end that it "make possible the generations of many independently natured substances through infinite time". But why should we hold that it is an intellect? The only additional argument given here, it seems, is that otherwise it would be an accident that "that the effect of the primary rotation pervades the entire universe".

But this seems to presuppose an unAristotelian premise: if not intended ('meant'), then accidental. But Aristotle recognizes necessity and nature, too, as alternatives to accident. If the motion of the sphere were eternal, and other things were so formed that, through their having that motion as a kind of end, then "the generations of many independently natured substances" would invariably follow, then there would be nothing 'accidental' about it.

So Broadie, in my view, gives no good reason why a Prime Mover, if kinetic, should be an intellect.

But do you see the important consideration from Lambda that seems ignored by Broadie's entire discussion of a 'kinetic' Prime Mover?